Building Courage

I came out approximately 5 years ago.

English: Rainbow flag flapping in the wind wit...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the time, I was terrified. I assumed that I would never speak to my family again, lose my friends, move far away and start a new life.

Now, that just seems silly. I told one of my sisters first, and word got around either by me or through the grapevine. The majority of my friends stayed true to me. Those that did not,  quietly removed themselves from my life. Although, to be fair, I didn’t exactly give some people the chance to tell me what they really felt, and for that I feel regret. I should have given them the chance to give me a chance. 

I was selfish, scared, immature and irresponsible to a degree. I didn’t know what to do with myself once I had finally conquered my biggest fear. Life became beautiful, wonderful and… chaotic at best. Eventually, I straightened it out, grew up and moved on. I have amazing family, awesome friends, and great jobs. Something struck me today at a new job I recently took.

I was talking to a coworker I hardly know. I just met her, we are both new, and I have no idea what her beliefs or political standings are. I related my relationship to hers, talked with other LGBT employees about the drag shows, etc. I openly mentioned my partner in my interview, and as the last few weeks of training have progressed there has been no hesitation in relating my life and experiences to others. And I wasn’t even thinking twice about it. Even when I taked to a sweet little lady about the election of a new Pope, I never assumed she was anti-LGBT inclusion. I just saw that she was sweet, polite and happy about the selection that had been made. It made me smile.

There used to be such fear and discomfort. Always worried about how someone might react to my orientation, my life, my partner… But now, I just don’t even think about it.

And no one reacts innapropriately. THAT, my friends, is so beautiful. And I owe it to all of you that have supported me, given me opportunities and chances, friendship and love. I hope and pray that every young person, regardless of what struggle they have, will find those people in life so that they may reach full potential.

I smile so much these days. I laugh, dance, sing, and love. Not like before, when it was gaurded, insecure and sometimes forced. Now it is genuine, bright and glowing like a Montana summer day.

We all make a difference in the lives around us. Let’s make sure it’s a positive difference.

Truth In The Face Of Ignorance

peace love joy

peace love joy (Photo credit: Leonard John Matthews)

Back in March, I wrote a piece about the Pope speaking to American bishops about the need for a culture war about marriage equality- and we got one. The Catholic Church was the largest single contributor (through the Bishop’s Conference, the Knights of Columbus and the National Organization For Marriage) against marriage equality initiatives in four states.

They lost.

Kind of makes you wonder what kind of help those millions of dollars would have given the poor if they hadn’t been so horribly directed against love.

Anyway, I ended that essay with with an open letter to LGBTIQ persons who live every day in the face of moral attack, physical violence and angry, ignorant, powerful people. We may have come a long way this year, but we’re not there yet.

So- if I may be so bold- I’d like to reprint the letter as a reminder that we need to find inspiration in ourselves. We need to remember that in the face of ignorance, we must continually speak the quiet, powerful truth of purpose and experience.

And I need to be reminded just as much as anybody else.

To my LGBTIQ family,

Love toward yourself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is important and necessary to insist on respect for your own right to life. I believe you were created to fill a very important place in this world- a place often dramatically misunderstood and opposed by people out of ignorance and fear.

It is crucial that you understand that you are not alone- there are millions of people who want to understand you and accept you and who will love you. You have the right to be understood- and you have the right to love and be loved in the ways you feel are most faithful to your created nature.

You have the right to live free from fear of attack and violence. You have the right to defend yourself against ignorant attacks on your dignity, happiness and self-respect. You have the right to fulfill your potential and to follow your heart and mind and soul and dreams to the best of your ability. Despite ignorance, despite persecution, despite fear and power and hate.

I believe that we are all beloved by the God of our understanding. I believe that we are valuable in being beloved. And that value is not diminished, even in the face of anger, fear and ignorance. Even in the face of religious belief which would deny us that value.

We are a courageous, wonderful people, with visions of love and acceptance and equality and happiness that I believe are deeply important to the future of the world.

I beg you, don’t let go of these visions- no matter how strongly others try to pull them away from you. They are your birthright.

They are the key hope to a world filled with peace.

Amen.

Touchdown! Kluwe

Chris Kluwe

Chris Kluwe (Photo credit: rburtzel)

It’s not often that a kicker scores a touchdown, but yesterday it happened.

Chris Kluwe, the outspoken (and well-spoken) punter for the Minnesota Vikings, famous for his letter of response to an anti-gay legislator, responded to Minnesota’s Archbishop (and the Pope) on the topics of being gay, being Christian and the separation of church and state in his blog at TwinCities.com.

And he gets to the heart of the matter very quickly:

How can we reconcile our version of the Catholic Church as salvation to the sick, the needy, the poor, when we must also bear witness to the Catholic Church as oppressor, tormentor, and executioner? Where, in all of Jesus’ teachings, did he ever say to deny the humanity of other human beings; where did the Son of God proclaim that mortal Man knew God’s will; where, pray tell, did Jesus ever say to harden your heart against those who may not be exactly the same as you?

I say to you – nowhere. Nowhere does Jesus preach hate, or intolerance, or loathing. Nowhere does Jesus say, “You shall deny the humanity of gay people because it makes you feel uncomfortable”. Nowhere does Jesus say, “And the mortal men of the Church shall be the sole conduits of the Word of God, for they are perfect and infallible.” Nowhere, in all of the recorded teachings of Jesus, does it say anything about discrimination or prejudice.

“But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Millions of children grow up raised in the Catholic faith. Some of these children will be gay, through no choice of their own, but because of how God created them. What does it say to those children when the head of their religion in this state, a man who claims to “explain and defend the teaching of the Church because I have been ordained to do so and I believe those teachings with all my heart”, a man acting under the direct auspices of the Pope himself, tells them that they can’t be as worthy as everyone else, even though they believe in the teachings of Jesus? What will these children think, as they suffer the barbed insults of their classmates and teachers; I ask you, sir, what will these children think as they are belittled and tormented due to teachings you espouse? What judgment will be passed on your soul when yet another poor child reaches for the knife or the noose to end his or her earthly torment due to your example? (emphasis mine)

Exactly.

Bravo, Chris Kluwe! Bravo and thank you. You speak for many of us.

Read the whole thing here.

And, in related news, Theologian Hans Kung is calling for a “Revolution From Below” to an authoritarian Catholic Church. Well worth a read:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/05/catholic-revolution-nazi-dictatorship-pope

Related articles:

The Pope Chooses War, I Choose Self Defense

Yesterday Pope Benedict XVI spoke to a group of bishops on their ad limina visit- and with all the topics available to him (hunger, poverty, abuse of women, social injustice, racial inequalities, nuclear threat, stewardship of resources, etc), he chose to speak to them about the necessity of battling the “powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage….The church’s conscientious effort to resist this pressure calls for a reasoned defense of marriage as a natural institution,” which is “rooted in the complementarity of the sexes and oriented to procreation,” he said.

“Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage,” the pope said.

Defending traditional marriage is not simply a matter of church teaching, he said; it is a matter of “justice, since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike.”

Whenever I hear a leader speak the word “Safeguard”, I pay attention. It is a word used by institutions and governments to promote the protection and defense of something fundamental to it. It is not a passive word. It says to me that the Pope is ready to fight for his narrow theological/historical position on sexuality and marriage. Something he believes is fundamental to Christian faith- even though marriage is curiously absent from the Nicene Creed (325-381 ad)- which most Christian churches profess as containing the essential, fundamental elements of Christian belief today.

He did not choose dialog or express interest in hearing about the experiences of thousands (millions?) of LGBTQ catholics and their families. He did not choose to understand, he chose to condemn.

In other words, he openly advocated war.

It’s a culture war, it’s a war of ideologies. It is, in fact, if you count all the open and affirming Christian churches that  welcome LGBT persons and their partners and children into their congregations, a war of christian theology. But it’s a war nonetheless.

I believe it to be totally unnecessary- and I also believe it conflicts with the very theology the catholic church espouses.

“War” is defined thusly: “a state of armed conflict between different nations or states or different groups within a nation or state”. “Armed conflict” is an important term to notice here. I think it can also mean non-physical weapons- weapons of ideology or theology, for example. But I would be naive not to think that some of the faithful out there may hear in these words a clarion call to harm LGBT persons and their families. I would also submit that the Pope’s words have already harmed them by creating ‘enemies of the church” out of persons and families who have nothing more important in mind than following their hearts and minds- and souls. And, if you recall your history, enemies of the church have not fared so well.

And in that case, the Pope needs to take a closer look at his own catechism.

If someone attacks me and threatens my life or my way of life, according to the Catechism of The Catholic Church, I have the right to defend myself.

 2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:
If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful…. Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.[65]

2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another’s life. Preserving the common good requires rendering the unjust aggressor unable to inflict harm. To this end, those holding legitimate authority have the right to repel by armed force aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their charge.[66]

And with the rhetoric being used by the Pope to the bishops in his address yesterday, I have every reason to believe that these are not words of someone struggling to understand the reality of LGBT persons, these are the orders of attack given by a supreme commander to his highest officials. And I’m confused because- try as I might- I can’t imagine Jesus saying them.

I also have every reason to fear for my safety and the safety of all LGBTQ persons. And before you accuse me of being overly dramatic, remember that the pro-life message has spurred numerous acts of violence- in the name of life, I might add. People in Uganda, the Middle East and elsewhere are being butchered and abused because they are known or perceived to be gay.

So do you think these words will be like soothing balm on the righteous indignation of the zealot?: …”threats to freedom of conscience, religion and worship which need to be addressed urgently so that all men and women of faith, and the institutions they inspire, can act in accordance with their deepest moral convictions.”

I’m an idiot if I don’t believe that someone out there is going to see this as a reason for violence- physical or psychological. And remember how powerful psychological threats are- those are the very things killing our kids.

I want to be clear- I am not advocating violence in any form. I’m advocating self-defense. And I’m advocating a careful, calculated, firm and reasonable response to this madness. I want the argument to be two-sided. I want the voice of the Pope and the bishops to be countered by the voices of people who see the Christian message in a different way.

If the Pope chooses war, I choose to oppose that war. I challenge it on its very principle.

So, if I may be so brazen, I would like to be one of those counter voices. Feel free to add your own voice in the comments.

To my LGBTIQ family,

Love toward yourself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is important and necessary to insist on respect for your own right to life. I believe you have been created to fill a very important place in this world- a place often dramatically misunderstood and opposed by people out of ignorance and fear.

It is crucial that you understand that you are not alone- there are millions of people who want to understand you and accept you and who will love you. You have the right to be understood- and you have the right to love and be loved in the ways you feel are most faithful to your created nature.

You have the right to live free from fear of attack and violence. You have the right to defend yourself against ignorant attacks on your dignity, happiness and self-respect. You have the right to fulfill your potential and to follow your heart and mind and soul and dreams to the best of your ability. Despite ignorance, despite persecution, despite fear and power and hate.

I believe that we are all beloved by the God of our understanding. I believe that we are valuable in being beloved. And that value is not diminished, even in the face of anger, fear and ignorance. Even in the face of religious belief which would deny us that value.

We are a courageous, wonderful people, with visions of love and acceptance and equality and happiness that I believe are deeply important to the future of the world.

I beg you, don’t let go of these visions- no matter how strongly others try to pull them away from you. They are your birthright.

They are the key hope to a world filled with peace.

Amen.