Last weekend, I served as one of the conveners of the 2010 Soulforce Symposium in Philadelphia entitled "The Truth About Faith, Science, Love & Reparative Therapy."
For me, the most exciting part of the gathering was the compelling presence and energy of so many young adults from diverse communities, several of whom were Soulforce Equality Riders over the last five years.
These young people are brilliant and articulate and well-prepared. They were spot on with their requirements for those of us in leadership:
- They will not tolerate another generation of citizenship in their country where so many people are treated as "less than" if they are gender non-conforming.
- They will not barter peace of mind or their lives in any way that perpetuates gender profiling and bias.
- They "just say no" to discrimination regarding their employment, military service, rights of covenant relationship or safety.
- They will not accept or condone bullying, spiritual violence or religious abuse.
They don't really care who is sitting in the prestigious house seats in Congress fueled and financed by "fundies" (the Radical Religious Right) and making up rules about their future. They know the battle has already been won and bureaucrats and denominational leaders better sign up for some conversion/reparative therapy of their own -- the kind that can help them learn to express human rights and dignity as core values of our country.
Energized by the young people and their creative and smart ways of expressing their convictions, I went to Facebook early in the Symposium to tell my activist, itinerant-preacher son, Joshua Love, about the proceedings so he could participate virtually on YouTube.
Today, he sent me a blog response that I want to share with you. It is part of our story as a gay family of faith. There are people in your communities and churches with similar stories to tell. I hope they will. We will publish them on-line for the world to see at Soulforce.
Over the last several months, I have been touched by the outpouring of support, activism and outrage in response to the evil of bullying queer kids.
I was one of them 21 years ago in Abilene, Texas, the third most conservative city in America (Los Angeles Times). When I was growing up in Abilene, my mom had to constantly balance her fear and her dreams for me: fear that someone would "gay bash" me, stab me in the school lunchroom, or break my spirit through the endless taunts, dreams for my safety and success. She refused to reject me even though our church and family did. She said they were wrong and Jesus was right.
Her Jesus is not easy to follow. He was never the ringleader of a crowd of bullies of popular opinion. When I was 15, I was blacklisted from my church of origin because of my sexuality. One of the parents in the youth group of that church circulated a list of names, including mine, of "dangerous" gay teens. When the recent videos and messages began emerging trying to tell today's youth "It Gets Better," I was grateful. These messages are from people of conscience and courage, the antithesis of bullying. And, we must make it better for young people right now, not later. We must take some bold steps (and some are very hard):
- We must tell the truth about what has been done to us and what we have done to victimize others, intentionally and unintentionally. The cycle of abuse must end.
- We must reclaim our seats when others fear us and tell us to go away.
- We must find a way to love again. It may not be possible to easily love the ones who hurt us, but if we choose to love, wholeness is possible.
- We must stop right now and think of someone we can call, text, email, Facebook or hug to say how much they matter. It is such a small effort to help another stay alive in hope for one more day.
- Finally, when someone tells you to keep silent, that you do not have a right to tell the truth or that telling your truth will disrupt the power and lives of others, just say no.
The forces of Good in this world do not employ abusers to break sweet spirits. Those of us who were abused, bullied, and mistreated have a choice to make: We can hide our injuries or die from them or we can stand up for justice and say, "No more."
I came into this world to live as a builder, not a breaker. Together we can rise in hope from the ashes. I know because it happened for me. It can happen for you and your family, too.