Thursday, June 23, 2016

I am a progressive person of faith

I am a person of faith. I am a seminary educated, ordained minister. I pray. I study the scriptures. I am also a resident of the 21st century. Being a person of faith does not make me an imbecile. I can affirm the value of spirituality and work to build religious community and still know that climate change is real, evolution is a fact, same-gender love and attraction are natural, bisexuality is a thing, transgender people are part of the wonderful diversity of humanity, no religion has all the answers (or has even asked all the questions), no religion is "God's favorite" (though we are each free to choose, navigate, and adapt our favorite), cruelty isn't okay (even if you think you have a bible verse condoning it), women aren't inferior to men in any way, women are THE experts on women's health and women's bodies, all people have sacred value, and using religion as "fire insurance" (trying to secure privilege or avoid torment in a possible future existence) is the least noble, most selfish, and least compelling reason to embrace religion. I just really needed to say that. (dw)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Christian Fundamentalists' Lie About the President's Faith

To the Right Wingers who are using the Orlando tragedy to say Pres. Obama is a secret Muslim and a Terrorist organization sympathizer (and who seem to believe that one equals the other), I am frankly exhausted with your willful ignorance and chosen hatefulness. If you have emerged from your cave ever in the last few years you know perfectly well that...
1. The President was a member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago
2. The President, while in office, has visited (and even "preached" at) Christian congregations.
3. The Obamas, having the entire District of Columbia and surrounding suburbs to choose from, chose to send their daughters to a Quaker school.
4. His Christian bona fides not withstanding, we have freedom of religion in this country; so, if he were Muslim it would be completely okay. "Christian" is not a requirement for POTUS.
5. The overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans are peace-loving patriots who are as impacted and devastated by terrorism as anyone else.
6. It was Obama who eliminated Bin Laden (HELLO???!!!!).
7. It is our current president who has authorized on-going military strikes against terrorist groups in the Middle East.

So, please, for the sake of all things decent and sane, STOP using "Muslim" as an insult or as a word meant to stir fear, STOP intentionally lying about the president's faith (and if he ever decides to convert to Islam, just congratulate him and move on with your sad little lives), and STOP trying to connect him to terrorism when he has combatted it more effectively than any president to date (we can take issue with drone strikes and undeclared wars that don't have congressional approval, but we can't say he's not taking a fight to the terrorists ferfucksake!).

Just stop lying. Just stop hating. And while you're at it, stop pretending to be outraged that 103 people who come from a community that you have demonized and dehumanized and damned and insulted and vilified and rejected were hurt or killed. You've gleefully threatened them with hell since day one; now that 103 of them have gone through it, don't pretend that you are suddenly filled with compassion for them (and if you really are, then do the healing thing and offer an apology for the hate speech you've supported that leads to such violence).

That's all.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Weary but Committed Optimist

I am an optimist, not by nature (by nature I'm a cynic) and not by nurture; by nurture (the way I was reared) I am at least a 4th generation worrier. But by decision and determination and practice, I am an optimist, even when it's difficult to be (which of course is when optimism is needed the most!).

Optimism by choice can be exhausting.
When people PASSIONATELY will defend easy access to military grade weapons no matter how many innocent lives are lost to them, it's hard to remain optimistic.
I really am not asking you to turn in your derringer, or if you live in the piney woods of East Wherever, I am not asking you to stop hunting; we are just talking about reasonable restrictions on some types of weapons. Our own past and other countries have shown that such sensible actions will reduce gun violence.

When a group finally achieves civil rights and some measure of social equality and the immediate reaction is legislation that says all of that is void as long as someone says their religion demands discrimination, it's hard to remain optimistic.

When individuals make terrible choices, and their entire religion or culture or ethnicity is blamed (even by people seeking high office)...when that sort of unmasked bigotry seems to flourish, it's hard to remain optimistic.

When haters and lunatics gain power because ridiculously high numbers of people don't vote, it's hard to remain optimistic (and when those who do get power make it even harder for those who wish to vote to do so, it's hard to remain optimistic!).

When hate and fear, homophobia and transphobia, racism and xenophobia, misogyny and violence, hate speech and demagoguery seem to have all become mainstream, it's hard to remain optimistic.

BUT I WILL. I must. I have given too much of myself, offered too many sacrifices on the altar of  the gods of optimism to give up now.

What if my efforts to maintain and share optimism utterly fail, what if there is evidence to show me that it will fail? I will remain optimistic anyway!

What if some days my optimism feels false and naive? I will cling to it all the more stubbornly!

What if some days, and today could be such a day, optimism feels like a heavy load almost too much carry? Then I will drag it behind me, however slowly, but I will not let it go.

Some days, it's hard to remain optimistic. So what? It's too precious a gift to let go. That we have been given the power to choose optimism means we have also been given the responsibility to to do so. And when enough of us do so, and we remain optimistic long enough, things do change for the better. We've seen it; we've lived it.

May the victories of optimism in our memories inspire us to embrace it again and again, day after day, and never let the tides of fear, hatred, and division wash away our holy optimism. May optimism energize us to do what we can, to say what we must, to stand tall until we are knocked down, and even then to dare to believe that more possibilities exist for us.

I am a weary optimist, but an optimist nevertheless. Just owning that truth fans the flames of peace and joy within me. I remain a preacher of the Gospel of Optimism. Now, it's time to put that optimism work; please join me in doing just that. (dw)

Monday, June 13, 2016

Bigotry in the Name of Religion is Still Bigotry and It Has Consquences

The killer in Orlando was apparently outraged by seeing two men kiss in Miami, and his reaction was to kill 49 people in Orlando. Obviously he was mentally ill, and he may have been influenced by extremist ideology, but Heterosexism/homophobia was his primary motivation. Two people expressing affection angered him to the point of committing mass murder. Religious leaders and politicians whose rhetoric continuously dehumanize and demonize same-gender loving people are giving unstable people tacit permission to commit violence. Hate speech, even when disguised as a stump speech or a sermon, fuels the fire of violence. Enough blood has been spilled. I will not "agree to disagree" when it comes to the sacred value of LBGT people. Your opinion is not equal to someone's life. We must insist the bigots own their hatred and its consequences and stop blaming it on "God."

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Not the 1st Night Club Massacre

43 years ago this month a bar that doubled as a church in New Orleans was attacked. It was an act of arson that killed many people. It is devastating that history has repeated itself, that another gay bar In the South has been attacked leading to multiple deaths. Some will use this incident to stoke the flames of homophobia or islamaphobia or to launch a defense of military grade weapons for civilians. But I hope most people will appeal to "the better angels of [their] nature" and not fall into that trap. Let's mourn the losses, and reject the hate, and start to build a better world where all people are valued.

Prayer for Orlando

Dear Friends, 

Early this morning many of us learned about the mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando last night. We are always sad when senseless violence takes innocent lives and when irrational hatred disrupts our communities. 

Sunshine Cathedral remembered the victims of the attack this morning at our worship services. In sermon and in prayer and at Communion we called to mind the victims and their loved ones. Additionally, Sunshine Cathedral clergy are present this evening at a community vigil in Wilton Manors and at a rehearsal for "Not in My Town" opera about the murder of gay student Matthew Shepherd in Wyoming. 

The leadership at Sunshine Cathedral is holding Orlando in prayer today. We are wishing the injured complete recovery, and we are joining with people all over the world in mourning for those who were killed. We are also grateful for first responders and medical personnel who have worked vigilantly to help as many people as possible. 

Let us not use this incident as an excuse to fuel old fears, hatreds, or prejudices. This is a moment that can bring out the best in all of us and bring all people together to work for a more peaceful and just world. Let us do what we can to be a healing force in our world. 

We wish comfort for the families of people who were hurt or killed last night, including the family of the shooter who was also killed. And we call for an end to the hate speech that inspires acts of violence. Let us make every effort to summon the power of healing love in this difficult time. 

May the Sacred Power of Life bless us and keep us as we embrace hope and healing, and as we commit to being a force for good in the world. Amen. 

Yours in shared sorrow,

Durrell SIg 
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins 
Senior Minister

Gay Bar/Holy Ground

Gay Bar/Holy Ground
Durrell Watkins

The first time a man kissed me was in the only gay bar in the small town where I lived. Years of fun, community, and romance would soon after take place in another gay bar in another small town in the Quachita mountains. Visits to other gay bars in the Ozarks and in Northern Louisiana followed. Later, I discover a whole network of gay bars in Dallas and Fort Worth. Eventually I would find my way to gay watering holes in New Orleans, San Francisco, Chicago, Tulsa, Little Rock, Houston, Austin, and of course, New York. Even in middle age, there are some gay bars that I frequent in Fort Lauderdale.
Dance clubs, cabarets, drag bars, leather bars, S&M (stand and model) bars, bar and's where my people gathered. I made friends. I felt at home. I even found my "calling" in a Country & Western bar in Dallas. I picked up a brochure about a "gay church" and my life and future was forever changed.
Gay bars were oases, safe havens, sanctuaries for people of my age cohort and older. One might call them "holy ground." We were welcome, affirmed, and celebrated to the sacred beat of "thumpa-thumpa" when other places only sought to dehumanize us. Gay bars helped us feel sexy, vibrant, worthwhile. Gay bars raised money for AIDS and other charities. Gay bars were wonderful worlds unto themselves.
In such a sacred shrine, 50 people lost their lives last night In Orlando, FL. 53 continue to fight for theirs. A sacrilege has been committed. Not only has human dignity been assaulted, but a safe place for LBGTQQIA folk has been desecrated. I hope the Queer community of Orlando will reclaim their sacred space and reconsecrate it with courage, hope, resilience, and determination. I hope that temple of queer community will serve forever as a landmark to LBGTQQIA people, and I hope the lives lost there will be remembered and that glasses will be raised in that place to honor them.
Fallen comrades, rest in peace.