I listened to the arguments happening around my community as we all waited for "the Supremes" to share their ruling on DOMA and Prop 8. The arguments were intense. The one consistent characteristic of every conversation I listened to: the viciousness that found its way into the debate. In the past I have not just been a casual observer, but also an active participant in these conversations and I was always left wondering if there was a better way to do this, to speak out for equality. And then we got the news... DOMA was declared unconstitutional, and while the losing side experienced yet another blow to their efforts, the winning side did their victory dance and both were further entrenched in their points of view.
For the past several years I've been working in and around the cause for equal rights and have attempted to build bridges between the mainstream evangelical world and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. More than any social issue, gay marriage and the theological response to homosexuality are the topics flooding conversations from coffee shops to the inter web. In my book, The Cross in the Closet, I share my own story of "coming out" of the conservative Christian mindset programmed into me from youth, and now I'm watching as thousands of others are doing the same.
Many have read the recent news of the infamous "ex-gay" group, Exodus International, apologizing for causing untold harm to the lgbt community, and recanting positions and beliefs that the organization have held since its inception decades ago. Many see this as an equivalent to the falling of the Berlin Wall, and while I am happy that yet another "beacon" for the evangelical perspective on this issue has fallen, I am still drained by the mountain of religious and political beliefs hindering so many citizens of this planet.
But there is, and always has been, hope.
Thousands of dynamic, unsung heroes of the cause are stepping forward and challenging the status quo. They are straight men and women, gays and lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals alike, and while their message is unified, their methodology is innovative and unique.
I met Dave Thompson in late 2010 and we have become close friends since. Not only is he the founder and CEO of BlueHead Publishing, but also an outspoken author and advocate of the lgbt community.
One thing separates Dave from the many other advocates I know. He is not just a gay man speaking to the lgbt community. He is a bridge-builder using what many see as unorthodox methods to reach the broader evangelical world. In his new book, Over Coffee, Thompson seeks out the "other side" (aka conservatives) in an effort to have a respectful and impacting dialogue. Thompson takes an unpopular, yet humble approach by meeting with conservative pastors and leaders on their terms, and speaking with them in their language. His method is casual conversation and dialogue with the intention of friendship and grace. He doesn't attempt to change their beliefs per se, rather Thompson attempts to build upon those beliefs by living inside the tension with those the rest of us have demonized (in much the same way we have been demonized for believing more liberally on this issue).
Thompson recently appeared on Fox News Radio, engaging in one such discussion with a conservative, Pacific Northwest pastor, Dean Curry, of Life Center Church in Tacoma, Washington. And it was yet another example of the simple fact that respectful dialogue has more potential to change the mind of the masses, more than bickering. Loving your enemy and acting out of that love is more radical than any combination of words on divisive topics like these, and Thompson has perfected a strategy of grace and peaceful, non-violent dialogue that infiltrates even the most ardent dogma and allows for fruitful conversation.
If the cause is to move forward, if we as a culture are going to continue to progress towards equality for all, the over coffee approach of Dave Thompson is going to be a necessity as we navigate the turbulent dialogue of what is the most hotly debated issue of the past 20 years.
Dave Thompson's book, Over Coffee: A Conversation for Gay Partnership and Conservative Faith, is available HERE and everywhere books are sold. It is also available in all ebook formats.