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

No comments: