Monday, December 28, 2015

People of Faith Don't Always Have to Take Themselves Too Seriously

Religion at its best should be joyous. One should take delight in laughing at the ridiculous (though, sacred stories are usually only ridiculous when taken literally). Virgins and 90 year old women getting pregnant, dead guys refusing to stay dead, small picnic baskets that feed thousands, using a feeding trough for your baby's bassinet, talking donkeys and snakes, magic fruit that gets you evicted if you eat it, every species on earth squeezing onto a cruise ship, a guy having an extended stay inside a fish...there are some deep and profound philosophical truths in all that if we look for them, but on the surface, that's some funny shit!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Holiday Wishes for the LBGT Community

The Holiday Season is meant to be joyful.
During Hanukkah, we recall the story of a limited amount of oil keeping Temple lights burning for eight days in a row. The Hanukkah miracle reminds us that during our times of uncertainty, there is an inextinguishable light of hope within us.
During Christmas we imagine the innocence of baby born in humble circumstances but celebrated by angels; that baby reminds us that we are each a child of God.
Kwanzaa honors African heritage and celebrates the gifts, skills, and contributions of descendants of the West African Diaspora. Kwanzaa challenges us to affirm and appreciate our diverse global family.
And the New Year is a time for releasing the past and looking with hope and expectation toward the possibilities that lie ahead.
No wonder the holidays are filled with gift giving, feasting, prayers for peace, and songs of wonder and joy. It is a sacred season.
However, for LBGT people, it can also be a lonely season. We’ve made many advances in recent years and we’ve overcome many obstacles, and yet there are those who do not celebrate our legal and cultural victories with us. The Right Wing of both politics and religion threaten at every turn to do all that they can to reverse recent advances for LBGT rights and equality. Christian fundamentalists have doubled down on their anti-gay rhetoric. Municipalities have proposed ordinances that would deny many people the protections they need if LBGT folk are included in the mix. And some families, influenced by the worst of politics and religion, have abandoned their LBGT family members, or told them they are welcome home for the holidays only as long as they don’t mention their sexual orientation.
For LBGT people, the holidays can bring up old wounds, or subject them to new insults, new experiences of rejection, or fill them with remorse for not having supportive, loving families that embrace them for they are.
So, to LBGT people who have formed strong, healthy families of choice: Congratulations and Happy Holidays! You are demonstrating the healing power of love.
To LBGT people who remain in the closet, or attempt to return to the closet at least in part in order to spend time with relatives during the holidays, my heart goes out to you and I beg you to affirm your own sacred value. You may never persuade your relatives that you are who are meant to be, but please don’t let them persuade you that you are not. You are part of the beautiful rainbow diversity of humanity.
And to all allies of LBGT people, loving parents and siblings, cousins and friends, aunts and uncles, grandparents and godparents who love your Queer family member not in spite of who they are, but who love them exactly for who they are, let me tell you that you are heroes and your love and compassion will enrich lives and touch hearts in profound and life-giving ways.
The Holidays are meant to fill us with hope, joy, and goodwill. As LBGT people often need those very blessings at this time of year, my wish for our entire community is that the best of the Season will fill our hearts and bring healing to our world, or at very least to our experience of it.
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins is the Senior Minister of Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale.
This column was originally written for the Florida Agenda

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

The Frightening Revival of White Supremacist Rhetoric

I grew up among white supremacists, homophobes, misogynists, anti-Semites, and xenophobes (I had an uncle by marriage who was truly a despicable bigot in almost every regard). I was surrounded by violent rhetoric, fear, anger, hatred of the other, and all strangely wrapped in the language of Christianity...but it wasn't a Christianity that promoted peace, goodwill, tolerance, love of neighbor, welcome of the stranger, or a celebration of human potential. Jesus wasn't presented as a model of integrity, as a symbol of healing, or as an example of living in communion with infinite Goodness, but rather was a "savior" who was the key to the cosmic country club for some and the great avenger who was going to kick ass and take names at the end of time (and those who were going to face peril far outnumbered those who were going to find heavenly rewards)...and the worst part of this scenario was the agitated and perverse glee that many expressed while yelling their threats of damnation while being oh so certain that they were exempt from it. It was not religion at its best, in fact, it left wounds that took decades to heal from; it inspired my life's work of offering an alternative narrative, an option of being "Saved From Salvation" (note my book of the same name).

I mention this, because the same demographic of people who used Jesus as a gate-keeper and the bible as a weapon and who embraced racism, heterosexism, and misogyny at least as passionately as they embraced their version of religion (though, their prejudices were often affirmed as central tenets of their faith) are the ones (that I see) who are now rallying with horrifying boldness around the anti-immigrant, anti-Brown, anti-Muslim rhetoric being touted in recent days.
Franklin Graham, Donald Trump, and Anthony Scalia have embraced without apology or timidity the language of white supremacy, and are gaining political ground by doing so.
It is devastating to realize that over 60 years of civil rights work and advances are being undermined so openly, so energetically, and with the support of so many Americans. Of course, I dare not give up hope that "the better angels of our nature" will prevail, but in many ways they seem to be bringing up the rear right now.

Those of us who value diversity, the rule of law, opportunity, and equality must speak out, and we absolutely must vote in every single election.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

A Message & a Prayer In Response to Recent Anti-Muslim Statements

Dear Friends,

Some of us know very personally how hurtful and dangerous it is to be a target of prejudice. We know how frustrating it is when an individual or a group within our larger community does something wrong and all of us are blamed even if we disagree with the action. We know that hate does not heal hate and fear does not heal fear.

So we, in particular, ought to be uneasy when we hear public leaders, religious and political, calling for the expulsion of Muslims from the US, and/or for blocking Muslims from coming into the US. Decency, compassion, and a memory of history calls us to speak out when entire communities are targeted, marginalized, or vilified. We, who are religious, must also value the FREEDOM of religion. Freedom of religion is not the freedom to impose our religious values, but to worship as we choose (if we choose to worship at all).

In my parents' lifetime, Jewish people were denied entry into some countries where they might have been safe while Jews en masse were being incarcerated, tortured and killed in Europe. In my parents' lifetime, American born people of Japaneses descent lost their homes and livelihoods in this country as they were rounded up and incarcerated for no reason other than sharing a heritage with a political enemy. In my parents' lifetime, there was a great deal of anti-Catholic rhetoric when the first Roman Catholic won the presidency. And in my lifetime, there were several states where every act of love or romance shared between persons of the same gender was a criminal act.

We who know the pain of being targeted simply for being who we are cannot be silent when other groups are treated so unjustly. Even Jesus, whom Christians wish to follow, had to endure the insulting question, "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" Isn't it time to dispense with the rhetoric of hate and exclusion?

And so, not only do I feel the obligation to name the problem of racist and xenophobic slurs coming from some leaders (and I am thankful for those leaders who openly reject such rhetoric), but I also feel the need to ask all who would be faithful to resist such rhetoric as well. There are frightening events in our world, and we do want to respond to violence and terrorism, but blaming those who have not participated in acts of terror will not keep us will only cause pain for the innocent.

In response to divisive, fear mongering rhetoric, I offer the following prayer. It is in times of challenge that we must cling to our highest ideals and best principles, and prayer can help us do just that. Let us pray:

God of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar,
God of Isaac, Rebecca, and Ishmael,
God of the East and of the West,
God of Jews, Christians, and Muslims,
God of all life, all love, all hope, and all compassion,
We see acts of violence done in your name by people of various religions,
and we hear public voices condemning religions rather than seeking to hold
individuals that blaspheme their religion with violence accountable for their reprehensible actions.

But we who are of Irish or Italian or Mexican descent,
We who are of African or Caribbean descent,
We who are Jewish or Catholic or Mormon or Jehovah's Witnesses,
We who remember our mothers and grandmothers having to fight for the right to vote, to work, to have control over their own bodies,
We who are same-gender loving people,
We who are transgender or gender non-conforming,
We who had our Native cultures decimated or whose families were interred for their Japanese heritage,
We know that the language of bigotry is the language of fear, of hate, of division, and that no good thing comes from it.

And so, today, during this holy Season of Peace and Goodwill, we pray for our Muslim sisters and brothers, that groups that dishonor their faith by using it as an excuse to do violence will cease their troubling, and that those who refuse to distinguish between bad actors and an entire global community will be healed of their prejudices.

May we remember that in every religious tradition there are those who dishonor and misrepresent the tradition, including our own; but nevertheless, all people are the children of God, and religion, all religion, at its best seeks community, justice, compassion, generosity, and peace.

May we who have been demonized or dehumanized in the past never resort to treating others in the ways that hurt us so deeply, even as we work and wait and wish for peace and justice in all the world.

In the spirit of our common humanity,

Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Senior Minister
Sunshine Cathedral

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Don't Be A "Fool" About the Bible

While biblical tit-for-tat is my least favorite game, it can help liberate those who have been tormented by scripture. 
Someone told me today that i was a lost cause (as a gay person who refuses to say my gayness is a sin) and that he didn't need to say more about it because the bible warns against arguing with "fools." My response:
"The bible also says that labeling someone a fool gets you on the fast track to hell. I assume that verse from the sermon on the mount isn't one you take literally (nor should's idiomatic, meaning that if you insult someone they may respond in kind...if you call people names you may 'have hell to pay'), if we can contextualize and critique that verse, we should do it with all sacred texts, thus making them liberating rather than tools of bigotry and oppression." 

Religion Will NOT Make Your Straight

Here's what most fundamentalists don't seem to know.
Many LBGT Christians not only gave God permission to strike them straight, but spent years begging God to do so. But God didn't, because not even God can heal what is not sick!
Many LBGT Christians try to love their neighbor as themselves (though their fundamentalist Christian neighbors make it very difficult).
Many LBGT Christians spend every day in communion with God, living lives of kindness and generosity, worshiping faithfully, studying the scriptures diligently (which says so much about them since fundamentalists have used the bible as a weapon against them).
You keep telling gays to ask Jesus to fix them as if that never occurred anyone...what you don't seem to realize is that when they prayed, "Please God heal me!" that God did...God healed them of their internalized homophobia, God healed them of the pain the church inflicted on them, God healed them of their fears, God healed them of the mistaken notion that they needed to be healed.
Jesus won't make a gay person straight (that is both impossible and unnecessary), but the sincere prayer of gay Christians has been heard and answered time and again. Christ is present in their consciousness, the scriptures are alive in their hearts (as a comforting rather than condemning message), and they are committed to the words of the prophet Micah: "This is what God requires of you, ONLY to do justice, love mercy, and live humbly."
The reason gay Christians (and gay Jews and 12 steppers and Buddhists, etc.) are not persuaded by angry arguments is because they have their own experience of love, mercy and grace and no one can take that away from them.

Why Do You Think That Gay's Not OK?

Today's fundy fanatic: "Don't ask me to say that homosexuality is okay, because it is not."
Today's Durrellian retort: "Why is same-gender love not okay? Because there are 6 verses in ancient texts say so (or so you think)? The same texts that call for killing non-virgin women, forbidding women to teach men or speak in church, that forbid tattoos and pork and shellfish, that call for the slaughtering of Canannites, that allow faithful people like Job to be tortured to make a point, that allows men to have multiple wives but forbids divorce, that allows child abuse and slavery...those texts also include 6 verses (that can each be deconstructed to be about forbidding rape, exploitation, and idolatry and never condemning love or even mutual attraction) that you think make same-gender love the most intolerable thing in the world? That isn't just, that isn't compassionate, and that isn't sane. You don't have to like gays, but stop wrapping your fear and hatred in the language of religion. You dishonor your religion when you do, and you hurt gay people who only wish for you to stop and otherwise would never treat you the way you treat them."

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

You Don't Need to be Saved from Your Queer Reality

Yesterday Franklin Graham invited LBGT people to visit his Facebook page today (Dec 1). Who am I to refuse such a gracious invitation? So, I did visit the page today. The message was not anything new from Mr Graham. It was the same old "I love you enough to tell you the truth" bit, and his "truth" is that same-gender love and attraction (as well as gender non-conformity) is a sin and Jesus can save you from sin if you confess and abandon it (there's always a catch). Anyway, the language was a bit softer than it sometimes is from him and his followers, but the message was the same, insisting that LBGT people are flawed and in need of being "saved" from who they innately are.

That is such a soul crushing message that has literally ruined and even ended lives (and torn families apart). I feel a passionate responsibility to offer people, especially young people, a counter-narrative. So, as an invited guest to Mr Graham's thread (I'm Queer and he invited the whole Q-verse, so that includes me), I have spent the day posting a different message. I'm sure i've been accused of party crashing/trolling, but I don't care. Lives are at stake. And every post I've made (the same 6 over and over, plus 2 or 3 more once each) has earned a plethora of condemnations, people telling me I don't know the bible (as if they just forgot to mention it in seminary), that I serve "satan", that I'm leading people to hell, that God loves me "but" (ain't there always a "but"?), that i'm a false prophet...whatever, I know who I am so I don't care. I did crash the Haters for Jesus party, so I have to take whatever they throw out. But there's a 16 year old Pentecostal kid in South Carolina, a 14 year old Baptist kid in Tennessee, a 20 year old Catholic kid in Indiana, a 56 year old Seventh Day Adventist in Oklahoma who has struggled with self-loathing, guilt, fear and shame for a lifetime...and these victims of LBGT bashing shouldn't have to hear that poison one more time.
So, yes, I poked the bear today. Yes I was invasive, confrontational, and relentless in sharing a counter narrative in desperate hope of reaching at least one tormented person in order to offer them a word of hope. While literally dozens of people spewed their most toxic venom at me, there were others who "liked" my posts and who thanked me for sharing a more inclusive, kinder, more inviting gospel. But again, my deepest hope is that someone somewhere is daring to hope tonight that they are God's miracle and not God's mistake.

Below I share my various messages to the FG community. If any of them appeal to you, please share them. Simply credit the author (Durrell Watkins) and hashtag Sunshine Cathedral (#SunshineCathedral @suncath). The work for LBGT equality, and the healing work to rescue those who have been taught to hate themselves is not yet over.

A. "To all LBGT people who are told you are a mistake, that your love is wicked, that God isn't big enough to embrace you as you are...I know that such a message has tormented many of you and caused division in your families. I know that you have tried to date away, pray away, and deny away the truth of who you are. I know you have languished over rejecting religion which seems to have rejected you or hating yourself so religion would accept you. But there is another narrative for you to consider. Progressive religion, science, and human compassion are all on your side. God is love and is present in YOUR love. You are as you were created to be. Your life is not a sin. Your sexual orientation is god's gift to you. On this issue FG is wrong. Pray this prayer: God help me accept myself and let me know that your love will never and can never let me go. Help me to love myself. Heal my heart from the pain inflicted by those who have used your name in vain. Heal the wounds of homophobia in my heart, in the church, and in the world. Amen.
Share this message and prayer with someone today."
#DurrellWatkins #SunshineCathedral @suncath @DurrellWatkins

B. "I'll atone for many things but never for who I love. I would not choose to go to a homophobic heaven or serve a homophobic God. If I must choose between an invisible God and my flesh and blood husband I choose the love that has given me joy in this life. Any God that would make me give up the love of my life is a monster. I wonder how many self righteous fundies would give up their wives or husbands for a deity (and how could they ever love or trust such a deity?)"
#DurrellWatkins #SunshineCathedral @suncath @DurrellWatkins

C. "You guys get that your 'theological argument' is just a well rehearsed opinion (however much you try to blame it on God), right? and your opinion is not supported by science, nor will it ever trump one's lived experience. I know my relationship with God, you don't. I know my heart, you don't. And I know the joy and the blessing of my relationship, you don't. So your opinion means not a darn thing compared to the life I live, the spirituality I experience, and the love I share. You will never have an argument that will make me not know my sexuality to be a gift and a blessing, and my love to be a source of joy. And no threat of an imaginary after life hell would make me accept a hell on earth, the hell of shame and fear that you are trying to impose on others."
#DurrellWatkins #SunshineCathedral @suncath @DurrellWatkins

D. "Jesus touched the untouchable, loved the unlovable, confronted injustice, and affirmed those that religion had condemned (Deut says that Canaanites should be destroyed, but Jesus healed the Canannite woman's daughter and praised her faith...Samaritans were told they weren't 'real Jews' - like fundamentalists tell others they are not real Christians, but Jesus told a story of a GOOD Samaritan, the one who showed kindness when religious types were being legalistic without caring for hurting people...Jesus taught the golden rule and I promise that Graham and his followers would not want to be dehumanized and demoralized and demonized the way the way LBGT folk are by them...Jesus told the rich young ruler that generosity/kindness was the way to be in eternal relationship with God [sell all you have and share it with the poor]...Jesus healed on the Sabbath even when religious traditions and rules forbade it).
Jesus wasn't about rules, legalism, condemnation, shame, or hurting people. He gave people their dignity back. He saw goodness in everyone. He even prayed for his persecutors at the end of his life. That is my Jesus...the embodiment of compassion, kindness, and unconditional love.
I have two favorite stories about heaven:
1. Everyone when they die winds up in the same banquet hall. Catholics and Protestants, Muslims and Jews, Atheists and Buddhists, Nice people and mean people, Gays and Straights, Men and Women...the people who think that is a beautiful scene are in heaven, those who think it is a disturbing scene are in hell. We are all embraced by the one Power and Presence, but those who need to be better than others, saved while others are lost will be miserable while those who rejoice that there is a Love that excludes no one for any reason will be very happy - in heaven.
2. People approaching the Pearly Gates have to deal with Peter. Peter grills people to see who is acceptable and who isn't. Peter turns 2/3 of the people away. While he is dealing with people at the gate, in the background is Jesus helping those Peter rejected climb over the wall into Paradise. Religion wants to keep people out...Jesus won't let anyone be excluded.
That is my Christ, my Way Shower, my Anointed One, my Example, my model of how to live as a Child of God."
#DurrellWatkins #SunshineCathedral @suncath @DurrellWatkins

E. "Gay (or str8) is not a choice, but accepting ourselves and loving ourselves and rejecting homophobia is a choice. Same-gender love and mutual attraction is not a sin; homophobia is. Repent of your sin and be saved from your myopic, outmoded views of a wrathful god who can't see or appreciate sacred love that two people share regardless of their gender identities."
#DurrellWatkins #SunshineCathedral @suncath @DurrellWatkins

F. "People quoted isolated, ancient texts written by people who thought the earth was flat to justify denying women ordination, to justify child abuse, to justify wars, to justify slavery, to justify decimating native cultures, to justify condemning people of other religions, and to demonize and demoralize same-gender loving people. Every time people use the bible to shame, vilify, and manipulate others, to label them sinners or threaten them with damnation for being different, they are using God's name in vain, they are making religion seem cheap and petty, and they are
hurting people.
LBGT people, you are part of the creation that God calls very good. You are, just as you are, made in the divine image. God's love, to be love at all, is all-inclusive and unconditional. And if God condemned anyone, it wouldn't be for who they love.
LBGT people, I am an ordained minister with two seminary degrees and I promise you that you will not be rejected by a loving god for any reason, least of all for being honest about who you are or for loving another person, regardless of his or her gender identity.
God is infinitely better than those who insist that their prejudices are God's.
You may make mistakes for which you will need to make amends, but being gay or lesbian or transgender is not among them. Your ontology (your "isness") is simply what you are by accident of birth. There is no sin nor shame in that. And mutually shared love can never be wrong. Reject any religion that says that God rejects you." #DurrellWatkins #SunshineCathedral @suncath @DurrellWatkins

G. I feel a passionate responsibility to offer people, especially young people, a counter-narrative to the homophobic rhetoric disguised as "the gospel.". So, I have spent the day posting a different message on Graham's thread. 
I am not trying to change those who insist their prejudices are God’s own, and that God cannot figure out a way to be in relationship with same-gender loving people…that makes God seem mean, petty, and bigoted, but we each are entitled to the god we choose. I have no hope of changing one person who is committed to her/his homophobia, but I hope with all that I am that same-gender loving people (and gender non-conforming people) will hear that the anti-gay message spewed today is not the only religious message; it’s not even the only Christian message.
I am aware that my presence and my thoughts are not welcome on this page, but I was willing today to be an unwelcome presence for the sake of LBGT people. God loves you and wants you to be happy. Your love is sacred. You will not be rejected by God, and certainly not for being honest about who you were born to be or for loving anyone genuinely, no matter what their gender may be. Mine is a minority view on this thread (but a majority view in contemporary biblical and theological scholarship, social science, medical science, and behavioral science) and I offer it today in love for those who feel unloved and unlovable. And even for those who persecute LBGT people with the language of religion and threats of eternal torment (for love yet!), I thank you for engaging me today. A very few (not many) were kind and gracious about it, but even those who didn’t know how to be still heard me out, and I appreciate it.
Blessings to all (and especially to my LBGT sisters and brothers and our allies, among whom we can count the Divine). #DurrellWatkins #SunshineCathedral @suncath @DurrellWatkins

Monday, November 23, 2015

Approaching a Sacred Season

Dr. Durrell’s Spiritual Prescriptions

Approaching a Sacred Season
            In 1207 C.E. Rumi was born in what is today Afghanistan. Rumi was a philosopher and a poet, and his writings were filled with sensual mysticism.
            Rumi’s spirituality was part of the Sufi tradition, a mystical form of Muslim practice, and his particular spiritual journey seemed to be about increasing awareness of human unity with the Divine (which Rumi called his “Beloved”). His poems are filled with longing to be in constant communion with the divine Presence.
            Rumi was also a lover of the arts. He believed poetry, dance, and music had spiritual qualities and could be employed in the spiritual search for meaning.
            For Rumi, love was divine, the God of his understanding was infinitely loving, and sharing love extravagantly was a way to honor the Sacred. As we pray, sing, dance, and express love, we are evolving toward enlightenment, growing in our awareness of the Divine, and if we have in any way felt disconnected from our spiritual Source, we will begin to feel reunited with It…or so the philosophy of Rumi would suggest.
            Rumi’s understanding of spirituality as a returning to our Beloved Source, or awakening to the divine Presence, can be seen his poetic prayers of love to the Infinite, as when we wrote, “The minute I heard my first love story, I started looking for You, not knowing how misguided that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They are in each other all along.”
            I suppose the reason Rumi is on my mind right now is because we are approaching a sacred season, and sacred seasons should help us, to borrow a line from Marianne Williamson, “return to love.” Returning to divine Love is the heart of Rumi’s beautiful works.
            November 29th begins the Christian season of Advent which leads to the celebration of Christmas on December 25th (when we recall the birth of Jesus and find ourselves called to acts of generosity). December 6th is the first night of Hanukkah (the Festival of Lights, a commemoration of the rededication of the Jewish Temple). December 22nd is the Winter Solstice, or Yule, a sacred time for Wiccans and Neo-Pagans. And December 24th this year is the day of celebration for the birth of the prophet Muhammad. With so much spirituality in the air, so much hope and goodwill, the holiday season always feels a little magical. If only we could hold onto that magic all year long!
            So, as we approach this sacred season, I add my wishes to the magic-filled air. I wish for religion to be a unifying force that affirms the sacred value of all people, rather than a weapon used against those we dislike or distrust. I wish for refugees to find safety, and for them to be treated with dignity wherever they may go. I wish for the LBGT community to remain vigilant in working to secure and protect equal rights in every area of life. I wish for peace to become more popular than violence. I wish, as Rumi did, that we will all fall in love with divine Love, by whatever Name we call It and in whichever tradition we celebrate It; and I wish for us all to seek to express that Love more and more in our lives. The approaching sacred season is a good time to start.

Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins is the Senior Minister of Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale.
written for the Florida Agenda

Monday, November 09, 2015

particularly outraged

Dr. Durrell’s Spiritual Prescriptions
Particularly Outraged
I’ll just say it: I’m P.O. (particularly outraged). One of the reasons that I am particularly outraged is because religion is important to me. My brand of religion is decidedly progressive, and is more about building community and offering hope in this world than about trying to figure what an afterlife might look like or how to get there. Nevertheless, as non-dogmatic as my religious experience is, religion remains important to me and building progressive faith communities that focus on human potential and the sacred value of all people is my life’s work. Religion, for me, can (and ought to) be about giving people tools for their individual spiritual journeys and bringing them together to celebrate life’s joys and to face life’s challenges. I believe religion can be a powerful force for good in the world, and I want it to be. So, when religion is used to hurt entire communities of people, I, as a religious person, am particularly outraged.
I am disappointed that the proposed Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) was defeated last week in Texas. I’m disappointed that it didn’t pass, but I am P.O. (particularly outraged) that transgender people were vilified, demonized, and dehumanized in order to defeat an ordinance that would have provided protections for many. Had HERO passed, the elderly, religious people, veterans, gays and lesbians, transgender people, people of all national, racial and ethnic backgrounds, people with disabilities and more would have been protected from discrimination. But anti-equality forces launched a smear campaign against transgender people saying that offering them equality would pose a danger to cis-gendered women in the city. They had the temerity to claim that men would cross-dress in order to harm women in public restrooms if HERO passed.
Of course, nothing before or since the vote would prevent predators from donning a disguise and trying to hurt people, but affirming the full humanity of transgender folk has nothing to do with violent criminals disguising themselves. The opponents of HERO tried to reduce the transgender experience to playing dress-up, and they added nefarious motives even to that. The ignorance of transgender realities was astonishing and the fear-mongering was reprehensible, if effective.
Fundamentalists celebrated all over social media the day after HERO failed. They were congratulating themselves for taking a stand for morality; but slander and discrimination are not the paths of the moral high ground.
Religious conservatives often insist they are victims when their prejudices aren’t enshrined in law or when people they find distasteful are afforded full and equal rights in society; but as a religious person, let me assure you: not letting discrimination disguised as religion have the force of law in all of our lives is not a denial of religious liberty; it is resistance against religious tyranny.
Marriage equality was a huge victory in this country, but the war on human dignity, on equal rights, on LBGT safety is not yet over. In fact, in some ways, it may be getting uglier than ever. This is not the time for the LBGTQQIA community to become complacent or to allow ourselves to become fragmented. We must continue to stand together, work together, and insist that all people have a right to love genuinely, to live safely, and to be treated fairly. This is not only a strategy for survival - it is what my understanding of healthy religion demands.

Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins is the Senior Minister of Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale.

written for the Florida Agenda

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Keeping the Hallow in Halloween

Dr. Durrell’s Spiritual Prescriptions

Keeping the Hallow in Halloween
A “hallow” is an archaic noun for someone or something considered holy. So, Halloween (a shortened version of All Hallows Eve) is the night before the celebration of All Saints (“All Hallows”) Day in the western Christian tradition.
Of course, the evening before All Saints Day is hallowed in its own right. In Celtic traditions, Samhain (October 31st) is about the midpoint between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. It marks the end of the harvest season as people prepare for the upcoming winter. Festivals would include bon fires as a reminder that the warmth and renewal of spring would follow the dark, cold winter.
Samhain (pronounced “Sow-en”) was also a time when the barrier between this world and whatever might lie beyond this life was porous, so spirits could cross from the other world into ours (or so suggested the legends).
Since disembodied spirits could slip through the barrier between worlds on Samhain, people would have feasts and invite the spirits to attend (buttering them up perhaps so they wouldn’t be too mischievous), costumes became part of the celebrations as well (to hide one’s true identity from the spirits in order to prevent future haunting). It was a time of preparing for the harshness of winter, remembering that the abundant life of spring would follow, building community, celebrating life, and even remembering the dearly departed. It was a special, even sacred time.
There are spiritual communities today that still think of Samhain/Halloween as a sacred, hallowed night.
Of course, from a secular viewpoint, Halloween is a time to play, to wear costumes and give candy to children, to enjoy block parties and “haunted houses” and scary movies. It’s become a time of revelry and imagination.
But for me, there is one more reason that Halloween is a special time, an empowering time, a hallowed occasion. Halloween is for many an LBGT Holy Day!
Halloween for Queer folk is a time of theatrically, performance, gender-bending, political expression, overt sexuality, and community revelry. From Dallas to San Francisco to New York to Wilton Manors, I’ve seen some of the most joyous, creative, and life-affirming demonstrations imaginable on Halloween.
Halloween has for decades now brought LBGT people “out” to show the world our flair, our energy, our zest for life. Before National Coming Out Day and LBGT History Month and Gay Pride celebrations in cities of every size, Halloween provided LBGT people an opportunity to laugh, to gather, to create something over the top and utterly fabulous, and to invite the world to watch us celebrate the sacred energy we release into the world.
There is something magical about Halloween. It isn’t that mysterious really, or even scary in my view; it is an opportunity to celebrate life, to express appreciation for gifts of creativity and joy, and even to remember those who no longer occupy physical space but who are very much alive in our blessed memories. Halloween is hallowed indeed, not only because it helps us face darkness and uncertainty with flair and glee, but because it reminds us that in this moment we are very much alive and that is something worth celebrating indeed.

Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins is the Senior Minister of Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale.

written for the Florida Agenda

Monday, October 12, 2015

October Calls Us to be Angels in our World

Holy October
             October has become a month that encourages us to celebrate human potential. October challenges us to remember heroes so that we might discover heroic qualities in ourselves. October even calls us to work for justice where justice has been denied. October is a very special month!
            There is a national holiday in October: Columbus Day. However, we now know that it is problematic to celebrate Christopher Columbus as the “discoverer” of North America, since Leif Ericson reached our continent 500 years before Columbus did, and the continent had been inhabited by indigenous people for thousands of years. So, Johnny-Come-Lately Columbus was the second European to visit a long inhabited continent. Worse than the inaccuracy of calling Columbus the discoverer of North America, is Columbus’ own brutality. When Columbus landed in the Bahamas he and his crew were treated well by the native residents. Columbus rewarded their decency by seizing their land and enslaving them.
Now many of us call what has been known as Columbus Day, “Indigenous Peoples Day” to honor the peaceful people Columbus first encountered and soon betrayed and tormented. Indigenous Peoples Day reminds us to honor the peace lovers, to value kindness and generosity, and to speak out against injustice.
October is also LBGT History Month where we celebrate heroes from our beautiful and diverse Queer community. We honor such luminaries as lesbian Jane Addams (co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union and first American woman Nobel Peace Prize winner), Miriam Ben-Shalom (discharged from the Army in the 1970s for being gay but she won a long court battle which resulted in her being reinstated in the 1980s), bisexual Grammy winner and Rock & Roll Hall-of-Famer Clive Davis (who helped the careers of such superstars as Aretha Franklin, Jennifer Hudson, and Carlos Santana), Arthur Dong (Academy Award nominee, Peabody Award winner, gay film-maker who features gay and Asian themes in his work), Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox (transgender actress, producer, and activist), and Richard Blanco (the youngest, first Latino, and first openly gay U.S. presidential inauguration poet – Blanco read one of his poems at President Obama’s second inauguration). We should be very proud of the many achievements that members of our community have shared with the world!
October also gives us National Coming Out Day which encourages us to leave behind closets of fear and shame and to live out loud as the gifted, wonderful members of the human family we are. October 6, 1968 is the founding date of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC). October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, reminding us to honor those who battle cancer, to remember those who lost their battle, and to wish and work for a cure. And sadly, October is the month in 1998 when Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard died from being attacked simply because he was gay.
October gives us a lot to think about, and opportunities to renew our commitment to make a difference. So, I call October holy, because in many ways it reminds us that we can be and ought to be angels of healing in our world.

Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins is the Senior Minister of Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale.

written for the Florida Agenda

The Q Word

Someone asked today when "Queer" became an acceptable word. Of course, it happened organically and over time, but it has been used in a positive context for well over 40 years in academic, political, and even progressive theological circles, but has even been mainstream for half or more of that time.

Depending on memory alone (God help us), I offered the following response to the questioner:

In social science, queer theory emerged in the early 90s out of the queer studies and women's studies disciplines as a post-structuralist critical theory. Queer theory "queers" (or spoils or reads against or challenges) gender binaries and heteronormativity.

Politically, I remember as far back as the 80s the word being embraced/reclaimed by people to make it a word that instills pride rather than shame, a word that was ours to use happily rather than allow it to be a weapon used against us to victimize us, and to include all segments of the, lesbian, bisexual, straight allies, transgender, gender non-conforming, intersex, questioning, etc. Lots of ways to be queer, but an (ideally) unified, Queer community.

In theology, Queer Theology uses religion and sacred texts to affirm and empower same-gender loving people and people all along the continuum of gender and to challenge and deconstruct the ways religion has been used/misused to promote homophobia and intolerance.

So, as an academic, political, and theological term, Queer has been in use for 40+ years. As a 48 year old Queer person, it has been my identifying word of choice for most of my adult life.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

What I Hope the Pope Learns About Family

Pope Francis recently visited the United States. He did what good pastors do: he “comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable.”
The pope challenged greed, as the Gospel demands. He also called for an end to violence among nations. “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
In the spirit of compassion, the pope advocated for more welcoming treatment of immigrants and refugees.
At an inter-religious service, he prayed not only with other Christians but also with Jains and Buddhists, Jews and Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs, thus demonstrating that we need not believe all the same things in order to care about humanity and to work together to achieve noble goals.
Everywhere Francis went he blessed children, he showed kindness to the disabled, and he electrified crowds with gentle tones and words of love.
I applaud His Holiness for each of these sentiments and actions. He called us all to a more generous way of living. I certainly find value in that message.
But when it comes to the pope’s rather myopic understanding of family, I find that I must disagree with him.
The pope left unchallenged the sexist and homophobic notion that only the heternormative, nuclear family can be healthy, wholesome, or sacred. I hope the pope will come to consider and declare that love, not biology, makes a family, that grandmothers can raise their grandchildren, that single parents can be good parents, that two mommies or two daddies can provide as much love, nurture and stability as any other caregivers. It is better for children to be loved and well-cared for than for their family model to resemble a 1950s sit-com. It is better for children to see people loving each other honestly and treating others with respect than it is to simply reinforce heteronormative prejudices and assumptions.
Also, I should think that a man who has chosen a life of celibacy would be able to understand that family is more than child-rearing. Some of us are blessed to have or to be loving parents; but, all of us need close bonds, people on whom we can depend, and these groupings are also families. Even a loving and devoted couple, whether gay or straight, whether or not they have children, have started a small but precious and life-enhancing family. All of these family models can be healthy and divinely blessed. The pope is correct in saying that “family” is very important, but I believe the definition of family can be broader and more inclusive than he seems to realize.
The pope appears to be gentler and more welcoming than his most immediate predecessors and I appreciate that; but I also hope he will be open to seeing same-gender loving people not simply as those who should not be harshly judged, but as persons created by God in the image of God to be exactly who they are.
I hope this pope who puts such value on love will come to see the beauty of love genuinely shared by persons regardless of their gender identities.
I hope this pope will come to speak out against violence done to LBGT people, will consider that gender is more complex than simple binaries, and will discover that it is love that makes a family and not dogma or biology.
I do not hesitate to praise this pontiff for the good work he is doing, nor do I hesitate to lift my voice in encouraging him and all religious leaders to become friends, allies, and advocates of the LBGT children of God.
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins is the Senior Minister of Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale.
Published in Florida Agenda, Oct 2nd, 2015

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Prayer for Pope Francis

At most of the pope's public appearances last week in the US, he asked audiences to hold him in prayer. And so, let us pray for Pope Francis.
Prayer for Pope Francis 
(by Rev Dr Durrell Watkins)
God of grace and goodness,
our Helper and Healer,
Source of light and love,
our Guardian and our Guide,
We pray for our fellow minister and laborer in your vineyard, Francis, Bishop of Rome.
We honor his gentle spirit.
We admire his humble nature.
We give thanks for his appreciation of the Golden Rule.
We remember Jesus saying, "Blessed are the peacemakers," as Francis calls for disarmament and for the end of wars.
We hear his challenge to care for the earth, for the poor, for the displaced, for the sick, and we hear in his words Jesus' call to care for these same children of God.
We give thanks not only for his official role and duties, but also for his ministry of presence which he shares so graciously and consistently.
We have seen him eat with the homeless.
We have seen him visit prisons.
We have seen him pray with Catholics and Protestants, Jains and Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs, Jews and Muslims.
We have seen him love and bless children, and touch the infirm with the power of kindness.
We have witnessed him trying to soften the rhetoric on divisive issues over which good people honestly disagree.
We have heard him ask the question in response to your gay and lesbian children, "Who am I to judge?"
What gifts these signs and symbols are to the world!
We pray now for the pope's continued good health, for his on-going happiness, and for his good example and witness to inspire Christians and non-Christians alike throughout the world.
And we pray, also, that the light of hope, justice and inclusion would shine even more brightly through him.
We pray that he may come to see same-gender loving people not only as honest seekers who should not be harshly judged, but as good people who have been blessed by you to be what we are in the world! May he take steps to lessen homophobia in his denomination and to heal those who have been harmed by homophobia's toxic venom. And may he very soon speak out clearly against physical and psychological violence done to same-gender loving people, especially violence that is committed in God's name, which is using the Sacred Name in vain.
We pray also that this seeker and lover of justice will come to see that a male privileging hierarchy has marginalized, insulted, and even wounded women; may he at least consider that you do call women to ordained ministry and "in Christ there is neither...male nor female" but we are all part of the creation that you call good. May he not only venerate the mother of Jesus, but respect all women and see them as equals in the work of ministry.
And, we know that gender identity isn't simply binary. May he come to see those of us who are transgender and gender non-conforming as children of God, deserving of respect, dignity, and fair treatment.
We are not asking that he be other than he is, that his heart be manipulated by super natural forces, or that he be untrue to his conscience; what we are praying is that this one who seems to care for people, who seems open to new learning, who seems to be willing to see "that of God" in others, follow those inclinations further so that he might be a voice of hope and healing, justice and inclusion for even more people who have been forgotten, dehumanized or demonized by church, state, society or culture.
We simply hope that this good man will see the goodness in all of your children, and add his gentle voice to uplifting those that religion has mistakenly put down for far too long.
We wish the pope well in his good endeavors, and we choose to believe that he can be one of the heroes who can right past wrongs and bring more people to your feast of all-inclusive and unconditional love. May it be so.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

What Religious Freedom Is...and Isn't

Dr. Durrell’s Spiritual Prescriptions

What Religious Freedom Is…and Isn’t
     Freedom of (and from) religion is a primary American value. American history is religious history. From Native American Shamanism to Catholics seeking freedom from Protestant persecution, from Quakers seeking freedom to practice their quiet worship and courageous pacifism to Jewish people fleeing persecution and pogroms in Eastern Europe, from new religions such as Christian Science and Latter Day Saints (Mormons) experiencing and expressing religious devotion in ways that differed at the time from the mainstream to the birth of Pentecostalism, from Eastern gurus coming to the United States to teach meditation, reincarnation, and the unity of the human family to the beginning of the predominantly LBGT Metropolitan Community Churches…our nation has been a place where religion has flourished and religious people have been able to form strong communities.
     This heritage of religious freedom, religious experimentation, and religious living is one that I think we should honor. We aren’t a Lutheran nation or a Catholic nation or an Eastern Orthodox nation or a Muslim nation (or even officially a “Christian” nation), but we are a nation where all of those religious experiences and so many more can be found, shared, and practiced openly. That really is quite wonderful!
     But lately, we are hearing a lot about “religious freedom” in a different context. The term isn’t used as much recently to describe our freedom to be religiously diverse, to be religious or not, to worship at home or synagogue, church or coven, mosque or shrine, but rather, “religious freedom” is now being used as an excuse to limit civil liberties and equal opportunity; as long as one claims one’s prejudice against another group is a religious value, then he or she (according to the flawed argument) should be able to use business or even government positions to deny members of that group service. Those who would use “religious freedom” as a weapon against gays and lesbians (or any other group they dislike) aren’t celebrating our freedom to worship as we choose; they are insisting that their prejudices should have the weight of religious devotion, and their religion should trump all other religious convictions, social institutions, and public contracts. They don’t want religious freedom; they want the power to deny freedom and equality to others and they want religion to be the unquestioned authority that gives them the power to do so.
     World history is littered with battles between kings and popes, Catholics and Protestants, Muslims and Jews, Muslims and Christians…each side insisting they had the divine authority to call the shots. And the current “religious freedom” argument is but one more attempt to use a myopic and tribal understanding of religion in a way that denies the full humanity of others.
     I value and celebrate religious freedom, but very simply, using religion as an excuse to marginalize gays and lesbians has nothing to do with religious freedom; it’s just one more attempt to demonize and dehumanize “the Other.” Religion at its best will resist such oppressive ideology.
     Religious freedom is the freedom to worship as we wish; it is not a gay-bashing license. 

Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins is the Senior Minister of Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale.

9/16 issue, Florida Agenda 

From Defense to Decision

Dr. Durrell’s Spiritual Prescriptions

From Defense to Decision
     In my evolution as a Queer spiritual leader and activist I have experienced three phases so far.
     Phase One:  Defense. I spent the early part of my ministry deconstructing the bible passages that were used to promote homophobia and to demonize and dehumanize same-gender loving people. I passionately pointed out that the biblical narratives never condemn same-gender love or attraction. Every time the bible seems to be critical of homosexuality (and there are only about half a dozen verses in the entire bible that can be given a homophobic spin) it is always in the context of prostitution or rape (behaviors that exploit or abuse someone). People in love, choosing to be together, enjoying each other’s company (and each other’s bodies) is never condemned in the bible.
     Phase Two:  Offense. I moved from trying to de-fang the apparently venomous verses used against gay people to playing a version of “Find Queer Waldo” in the pages of Holy Writ. With glee I would discuss the vow of devotion that one woman makes to another in the story of Ruth, a vow that has often been featured in heterosexual wedding ceremonies, “Ask me not to leave thee or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go and where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people and thy God my God. Where thou diest I shall die and there I will be buried…”
     Similarly, I would beam with joy as I told the warrior love story of Jonathan and David (who made a vow to one another). Jonathan affirmed that he loved David as if David were his own soul; and David declared that he loved Jonathan in a way he could never love women.
     Boaz (from the Ruth story) seemed a little gay to me. Ebedmelech who rescued a prophet from a well seemed a little gay to me. Lydya (who was central in a women’s community) in the book of Acts seemed possibly lesbian to me. It was interesting to me that the Apostle Paul went to Mytlene (Lesbos!) where he might have had friends. In fact, Paul seems pretty gay to me! I even had questions about at least one of Jesus’ disciples.  Gay people know one another, and I had a great time finding my gay and lesbian sisters and brothers in the stories of my leather bound bible.
     Phase Three:  Decision. I am now at a point in my life where I don’t need to be defensive nor do I need to go on the offensive. I don’t need to persuade fundamentalists that they are wrong about homosexuality nor do I need to find affirming tidbits in scripture or loopholes in the so-called “clobber passages” to justify my existence. I love the bible, but I don’t depend on any particular interpretation of it to give my life value. I have decided to celebrate my sacred value and to insist that all people be treated fairly and with dignity regardless anyone’s religious belief (or prejudice masquerading as religious belief). I have decided that I won’t play biblical tit-for-tat and that I will simply trust my experience of life, which includes who and how I love. And I invite other spiritual seekers and persons of faith to do the same.

Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins is the Senior Minister of Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale.

9/2 edition of the Florida Agenda

LBGT Spiritual Leader, John McNeill Dies

It is with great sadness that Sunshine Cathedral announces the departure of John J. McNeill from this experience of life to the next. Father John made his transition Tuesday night.
A Jesuit, a scholar, an activist, a prophet who proclaimed God's unconditional love for LBGT people, Rev Dr John McNeill touched countless lives and inspired many ministries. He was a blessing to this world for 90 years and he will be missed. We extend love to his faithful spouse Charlie and to all who counted Father John a friend or mentor.
A courageous and indefatigable laborer in God's vineyard, Father John challenged Catholic hierarchy and cultural homophobia while affirming the goodness of human bodies, relationships, and sexuality. He was a hero and his memory will bless all who hold it.

McNeill's books:
The Church & the Homosexual
Taking a Chance on God
Freedom, Glorious Freedom
Both Feet Planted Firmly in Midair 
Sex As God Intended 
Father John's Documentary:
Taking a Chance on God

Work included:
Serving in WWII (POW)
Earning a PhD from Catholic University of Louvain 
Serving as a psycho-therapist
Teaching at LeMoyne College, Fordham University, Woodstock Seminary, and Union Theological Seminary
Co-founding the NYC chapter of "Dignity" (an organization for LBGT Catholics)

What Scholars Say About Homosexuality & Christianity

"A new consciousness has arisen. A decision has quite clearly been made. Inequality for gay and lesbian people is no longer a debatable issue in either church or state. Therefore, I will from this moment on refuse to dignify the continued public expression of ignorant prejudice by engaging it. I do not tolerate racism or sexism any longer. From this moment on, I will no longer tolerate our culture's various forms of homophobia. I do not care who it is who articulates these attitudes or who tries to make them sound holy with religious jargon." Bishop John S. Spong

"Homosexual orientation has no necessary connection with sin, sickness, or failure; rather it is a gift from God to be accepted and lived out with gratitude... Human beings do not choose their sexual orientation; they discover it as something given." John McNeill, PhD

"Not even the strictest fundamentalist or Biblical literalist gives the same authority and moral weight to every word of scripture. Few of us would hold Paul’s injunction against women appearing in church with their heads uncovered to have the same moral weight as Jesus’ injunction to forgive our enemies. Few of us are willing to be bound by all the commands given to us in the Biblical text – otherwise, we would give all we have to the poor to follow Christ, redistribute all the land every 50 years, refuse to charge any interest on our loans/investments, share our worldly possessions communally as did the early Church, and refuse to support our nation’s defense budget in accord with Jesus’ commandment not to resist evil. We have come to understand certain things as acceptable in the Biblical culture and time, but not in our own – among other things, polygamy and slavery – which few Christians would promote despite their acceptability in Biblical times. As we approach the Biblical texts about homosexuality, we must not conveniently change our stance to one of asserting that every word of scripture is inerrantly true and universally binding on all people for all time." Bishop Gene Robinson

“…the Bible does not discuss committed gay relationships…[and] the Bible condemns numerous activities that today have social sanction, such as divorce, while it speaks in favor of slavery…
[Some] argue that just as Christians need not abstain from pork or prawns, so they need not abstain from same-sex sexual encounters - in other words, the Levitical codes are utterly irrelevant. The story of Sodom in Genesis 19 condemns lack of hospitality and the threat of rape, not homosexual love (see Ezekiel 16:49).
Scholars still debate exactly what Paul intended by "unnatural" relations in Romans 1, and what the Greek term arsenokotai in 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1 actually means…it appears in the context of crimes against others: adultery, kidnapping, murder, greed. Clearly the loving gay couple does not fit into this context…
[We need to realize that] all readers interpret. Nobody takes everything in the Bible literally. When Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, "If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off" (Matthew 5:30), most readers, appropriately, conclude that he is not advocating self-mutilation. We decide what to interpret literally and what figuratively. Similarly, we determine what to practice and what to ignore, we decide what is time bound and what is universal. Many churches that do not ordain women on the basis of 1 Timothy 2:12 ("I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man") have no problem with women wearing "gold, pearls, or expensive clothes," which is decried three verses earlier. Likewise, the Bible condones slavery; today we do not.
We read biblical texts on sexual practices selectively. For example, again from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus begins by citing Deuteronomy 24:1-3: "Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce." He then continues, "But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity (the Greek is porneia), causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery" (Matthew 5:31-32). Offering no such loophole for unchastity, Mark 10:11-12 makes the statement harsher. And yet the divorce rate in industrialized countries hovers near fifty per cent.
In order fully to understand the Bible, there must be attention given to the cultural context in which it was written…

The biblical discussion is ultimately one of how we manifest love of neighbor … thus giving the "love of neighbor" the quantitative edge over passages possibly concerned with same-sex relations). This love means we cannot demonize people. It means we have to address all humanity as in the image and likeness of the divine, with the same needs for a helper and the same hopes for a welcoming community. It means, for those of us who find the Bible to be important in our lives, we stand before it in some humility, as we try to figure out how to interpret it in our own lives…
The conservative probably will not be convinced by my suggestions…[but] both [conservatives and liberals] can recognize that the Bible should be a rock on which we stand, rather than a rock thrown at others.” New Testament scholar, Amy Jill-Levine, PhD