Tag Archives: anti-gay legislation

The Appalling Silence of Good People

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have been asked by some people why I as a chaplain, priest, and military officer, not to mention the fact that I am heterosexual, so strongly support my Gay and Lesbian friends, as well as the LGBTQ community. My answer has to echo the words of Albert Einstein who said “If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity.”

Many times the question is crouched in theological terms, and those that ask presume that I am supporting sin, and aiding as some say the “enemies of God.” The problem is, that if being Gay is a sin, then why are not all those concerned about them doing something other than condemning them unto their last breath? Likewise why are the sin hunters who hate LGBTQ people with unmatched passion; who use local, state and when possible attempt to use the Federate government to legislate against equality for LGBTQ people, and who remain dreadfully silent when Gays are attacked and killed, never condemn those that practice what are called the Seven Deadly Sins? If you don’t know them here they are; pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth. They infect our society root and branch, and dare I say our hallowed religious institutions, from which so much of the anti-Gay venom spews forth.

I wish I knew the answer to that, but for some reason it seems that religions in general tend to condemn, persecute, and even sanction the killing of Gays, especially Gay men, more than any other institutions. Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, there are elements in all these religions who are not content with simply preaching against homosexuality, but wherever they have control of government to persecute and kill LGBTQ people.

Early Sunday morning a man whose personal hatred toward Gay men, and radical Islamic religious based terrorist ideology formed a nexus of evil that allowed him to kill about fifty men and women, while wounding over fifty more. This was certainly a terrorist act, in the words of the man who committed the massacre an act done in the name of his understanding of Islam, and in accordance with the overall goals of the Islamic State.

We will find out if there is a deeper connection between the killer and the Islamic State, but that is not the biggest question here. Why did he strike a Gay nightclub versus any other soft target? There are hundreds if not thousands of soft targets in South Florida, including some which would have just as easy, and symbolic as symbols of America or even Christianity. Why not a sporting event, a non-gay nightclub, a park, a school, or even a church? Well, because here is what many Americans don’t want to admit, he hated Gays, and specifically targeted them on Pride weekend. Those two factors my friends are the key. He could have attacked anything, but he chose to kill mass numbers of Gays and others gathered at the Pulse nightclub.

Sadly he is not alone and has found significant support from anti-Gay Christian leaders like Pastor Steven Anderson and Walid Shoebat who both would prefer Gays to be killed, in fact Anderson’s only issue was the fact that it should have been the government that killed them, not the terrorist. Shoebat said that the only people mourning over the victims of the massacre are “liberals, idiots, and Gay lovers.”  I will not repeat rest of their hate filled venom here because it boggles the mind. How such people can even call themselves Christians is beyond me.

Mercifully others who are often at the front in condemning Gays have been relatively silent and mentioned that they will be “praying for the victims and their families.” But such prayers are cheap, unless you actually care about the people you are praying for, and unless you can empathize with them. Sadly, many of these religious leaders and their political allies have no intent of backing down on their work to curtail, limit, or roll back the rights of LGBTQ people, even to the point of criminalizing homosexuality.

But then there are others who are genuinely good people, who have friendships with Gays and even have Gay family members but still refuse to take the necessary step to support the basic human and legal rights of their friends and family members, and who for whatever reason, fear of being ostracized by their church or any number of a myriad of other reasons remain silent when horrible, inhuman crimes take place. But then Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. noted, “Not only will we have to repent for the sins of bad people; but we also will have to repent for the appalling silence of good people.”

All I know is that I will continue to speak out for LGBTQ people, and I will not be silent. I am sure that will lose me some friends, but I cannot stand by and remain silent, it would make me complicit with the man that killed and wounded all of those innocent people, and with the religious leaders that harbor the same views.

That is all for now. Have a good day, and please, even if you do not agree with me on anything else, and please take the time to try to feel a measure of empathy for those killed, those wounded, and those who grieve for them, and if you can take the next step to speak up for them. I promise that you will not regret that decision.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under civil rights, crime, ethics, faith, LGBT issues, Political Commentary, Religion

Gays Get Unalienable Rights Too

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Anti-gay Christian protestors outside the Supreme Court

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

In the next day or two, Kim Davis, the Recalcitrant County Clerk of Rowan County will go back to work after Federal Appelate Court Judge Jim Bunning released her from jail after holding her in contempt of court. He released her because other clerks were issuing the marriage licences that she had refused to Gay couples. If she does not interfere with clerks who have pledged to continuing to issue the licences this will probably blow over, but if she interferes with or punishes her employees the stage is set for her quick return to jail, something that her biggest supporters including Mike Huckabee seem to want to happen. 

But lost in all of the ranting of Conservative Christians regarding their right to discriminate in the name of Jesus amen against the legal rights of Gays, Lesbians and others of the LGBTQ community is what is happening to the gays.

From the supporters of Mrs. Davis you almost always hear the claim that Gays are trying to get special rights and persecute Christians. If that claim were true, which it is not it would be troubling. Likewise the claim that Christians and others who oppose Marriage Equality are now the victims of systematic government persecution and oppression is equally fraudulent. 

Their claims to being persecuted are an affront to all Christians who have really suffered and died for their faith in Christ. Likewise the claims of Mrs. Davis’s lawyers and the politicians, pundits, and preachers who support her, that she is “like a Jew in Nazi Germany” utterly demeans the lives of the Jews persecuted by the Nazis in the 1930s and the six-million Jews slaughtered by them during the 1940s. 

The claims of these so-called Christians are repugnant and embarrassing. Any Christian with a modicum of honesty, integrity, and ethics should publically repudiate then. Sadly, most, caught up in the emotions generated by the rabid anti-gay politicians, pundits and preachers, don’t know enough history, fact, or Christian theology to do anything else but to follow these charlatans as they lead the church to the abyss, just as the leaders of German churches did during the Nazi era. 

The fact is, that for the first time in our history Gays and others of the LGBTQ community have almost equal rights to all other Americans citizens, the rights so eloquently written in the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men….”

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Burned bodies of gay men after the Up Stairs Lounge in New Orleans was attacked in 1973, 32 men died. The suspect, a gay man who had been thrown out escaped police custody. Witness testimony was dismissed by investigators. Media buried the story while talk radio hosts mocked the victims. No one cared, even most churches which refused funerals for victims because they were gay

And which were finally enshrined in the Constitution by the 14th Amendment, an amendment which from the time it was ratified has been hated by the opponents of liberty for people that they despise, be it based on race, color, religion, nationality, gender or sexual preference. That amendment is precious and there are some co-called conservatives who actually want to get rid of it. I think that it should be memorized by everyone who believes in freedom:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

So, Gays are getting rights that they never had before and their critics whine about being oppressed and persecuted for trying to use their religion to deny those legal rights. But how is the right to deny legal rights to others a sign of oppression? I guess it is if you believe that your religious rights trump all other rights because God trump’s all, except maybe Trump.

Mini-StonewallGay Rights protest in 1965

But really, I want you to try to imagine what real oppression is like, that is the official, government sanctioned oppression that Gays went through, until very recent times. I guess if you never served alongside honorable people who put their lives on the line for their country, but who could be tried as criminals simple because someone outed them as being Gay it wouldn’t occur to you why this is so important. But government sanctioned oppression and even violence was a fact of life for gays until very recent times, and this is the kind of country that Kim Davis and the preachers, politicians and pundits who support her would like to return.

Imagine if your activities were monitored, catalogued and reported by local, state and Federal police agencies.

Imagine that police detectives and informants were allowed to spy on your activities.

Imagine that police, acting in the “name of the law” under the merest pretense or spurious accusation could invade your home, business or institution and use physical violence to subdue you, even if you had done nothing wrong.

Imagine if a business rival or a spurned lover desired to ruin you, your business, or your career and professional reputation with only an accusation.

Imagine if the price of your freedom was to name names and condemn others.

Imagine if even suspicion of your activities was considered as grounds for termination of your employment, or prevent you from receiving a promotion.

Imagine if those same suspicions could brand you as a felon with the results of being forbidden to vote, the loss of property and employment rights. 

Imagine that if you went to a bar that if you looked in any direction but straight ahead that you could be charged with accosting others.

Imagine that anyone, anywhere who had knowledge of your behaviors could use that knowledge to have you kicked out of the military, law enforcement or government employment, usually with a felony conviction. 

Imagine that your behavior, even discrete behavior in your own residence could get you locked in a psychiatric hospital and quite possibly the use of drugs and surgery to to include, lobotomy, castration or chemical sterilization “correct your illness” without your consent. 

Imagine if you were a faithful member of your church, were conservative in your theology and politics and supported all the causes of that body, but one aspect of your behavior could lead to your excommunication and banishment from that community. 

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Police attack Gays in San Francisco during the White Night riot on May 21st 1979. 

I guess if it was your behavior or your beliefs that led to such treatment you would cry foul, you would protest, that you would claim that you were the victim of discrimination; and my friend I say that you would be correct. That would be persecution. Sadly the Kim Davis and those claiming to be victims of “massive anti-Christian” persecution are only being prohibited from crushing the freedom and liberty of people who they consider sinners, not from practicing their faith in any way.

That my friends was the America and Great Britain that Gays lived in the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s, portions of which remained enshrined in law until very recently and which a number of high powered and influential politicians, pundits and preachers of the Christian Right would like to go again.

Sadly there are young Gays and Lesbians who take the rights that those who went before them for granted. Thankfully, they have grown up in a more tolerant society, but few know what happened to people just like them in the not too distant past. It should not be forgotten. 

So, when you think about those special “legal rights” being given to a “vocal minority who want to destroy America” ask which America? The one where we all enjoy the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness or the one that denies those rights to certain types of people who have done nothing wrong other than being who they are. Of course those who seek to abridge these basic human rights and freedoms, almost all do so in the name of their God and religion which they use to buttress and validate their prejudice and hatred.

Think about it.

Peace

Padre Steve+

7 Comments

Filed under civil war, History, laws and legislation, LGBT issues, News and current events, Political Commentary

The Journey: Padre Steve and Gay Rights

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

I hope that you are having a good New Year. I am having power fights with my blind nearly 14 year old Papillon-Dachshund mix Molly. It seems that she has decided that she no longer likes here special kidney diet dog food and resists eating it until she can’t stand it any longer. I even heat it in the microwave to get it to room temperature and sometimes she eats it like there is no tomorrow other times she looks at it, looks up where I am and seems to be asking “this shit again?” Tonight after refusing to eat I was getting some iced tea for my wife Judy and she was trying to get in the refrigerator. Power fights with Dachshunds are one thing. Power fights with Papillons another, but power fights with a mix… well what can I say? But I digress…

What I am writing about tonight is a subject that has become increasingly important to me, and a subject that probably makes some of my more conservative Christian friends really wonder about me.

The past couple of nights I have written about historic  discrimination against Gays and Lesbians, as well as what Gays suffered in the military under the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy. I do hope that you take time to read them and share them both if you haven’t already done so.

But anyway. I have been in the military coming up on 34 years between the Army and the Navy. When I enlisted and through the first two thirds of my career I can safely say that I fell rather strongly on the conservative-Christian side of the social issues debates. Over the years, especially the last seven since I returned a changed many from my time in Iraq, I have evolved significantly on most of these issues where although I while consider myself to be rather moderate I now fall decidedly on the liberal side of most social issues.

A lot of this has to do with the attitudes that I saw in churches that I was associated. Many people in my former denominations endorsed policies of the Christian Dominionist or Reconstruction movements, that basically upended First and Fourteenth Amendment protections and if enacted would basically turn the country into a theocracy. I have written about those things time and time again so I won’t elaborate on them now.

It was not only the policies, it was the attitude towards the LGBT community that really bothered me. For some reason it seemed that to many of my friends and colleagues that homosexuality was the only unforgivable sin, and not only that that homosexuals were somehow less than human and not entitled to the same rights as any other American citizen. Not only that they were blamed for every economic, social, foreign policy or natural disaster. Hurricane, blame the gays. Stock market crash, blame the gays, the 9-11 attacks, God’s judgement on the United States because of the gays. You name it, blame the gays, and that my friends still happens every day.

But my journey to accepting and fighting for Gays and Lesbians began a lot earlier.

When I first enlisted in the Army in 1981 it was not uncommon for gay slurs to be hurled at soldiers as a matter of course, especially at young men who did not appear manly enough or women who wouldn’t put out sexually when it was demanded of the. They were queers, fags, dykes and worse. There is a scene in the movie Full Metal Jacket where R. Lee Ermey, a man who actually was a Marine Corps Drill Instructor berates one of his recruits:

Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Where the hell are you from anyway, private?
Private Cowboy: Sir, Texas, sir.
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Holy dog shit! Texas? Only steers and queers come from Texas, Private Cowboy, and you don’t look much like a steer to me, so that kinda narrows it down. Do you suck dicks?
Private Cowboy: Sir, no, sir!
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Are you a peter puffer?
Private Cowboy: Sir, no, sir!
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: I bet you’re the kind of guy who would fuck a person in the ass and not even have the goddamn common courtesy to give him a reach-around. I’ll be watching you!

The sad thing is that such behavior was still common even in the 1990s and though not nearly so pervasive still happened on occasion in after the 9-11 attacks. But those taunts really bothered me and when I was commissioned as a Medical Service Corps Officer in 1983 I met gays in my officer training, they were closeted but they were targets. When I served as a company commander in 1985-1986 I had a number of gays and lesbians in my unit. As I mentioned before they were among my best and most trustworthy soldiers, always going the extra mile.

Meanwhile the unit had the highest drug positive rate in Europe when I took command and had so many real disciplinary and criminal cases on the docket I was told by the Group Commander to “clean that company up.” But when I got down to It I realized that I was so overwhelmed with the real criminals that I didn’t want to harass or prosecute my best soldiers, including those gays and lesbians. That was a watershed. While other commanders sought out gays in order to prosecute them and throw them out of the military I was protecting and promoting them, not because they were gay, but because they were excellent soldiers.

When I went to my next assignment as a personnel officer at the Academy of Health Sciences discharges of trainees for being gay was common. I know because I had to sign off on every discharge packet before it was sent for approval. Since we had five to seven thousand students at any time, both officers and enlisted I did not know the details of most of the stories nor meet the individuals concerned.

However, in 1987 I was given the responsibility of helping soldiers diagnosed as HIV positive with their career options. I also helped officers from the Army Medical Department draft the Army’s policies for those infected with the AIDS virus. At the time many of the Christians that I went to church with believed the myths and lies being promoted by leading Evangelicals about AIDS and displayed a tremendous amount of distain and even hatred towards gays and others infected or dying of that disease. I was dumbfounded that people who preached the love of God had neither compassion nor empathy for those suffering.

I left active duty to attend seminary at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. There I knew a few closeted homosexuals and lesbians who had deep faith in Jesus, were outstanding students and potentially outstanding pastors or chaplains but who had to remain closeted. After I graduated when I was going through my Clinical Pastoral Education Residency one of the men I graduate with did a one unit internship. During that time he made the agonizing decision to come out as Gay. For him there was much to lose, but his example was inspiring and I still stay in touch with him. I also met a chaplain from the Metropolitan Community Church who had been raised in a Black Pentecostal church. He was an amazing and compassionate minister.

In the hospital setting I worked with a lot of homosexuals, of which many were Christians who suffered in their churches as their pastors and friends railed against homosexuals. When I served as the installation chaplain of an Army base I hired an organist who was gay. He worked for the National Guard as a civilian and was a Log Cabin Republican. He grew up in a very conservative church and though he had deep faith was not welcome in most civilian churches. At the time I was a fairly new  in a very conservative denomination and my bishops held that giving communion to Gays was forbidden, in fact they called it a sin. However, when he presented himself for communion, knowing his faith I took the advice of a conservative Missouri Synod Lutheran chaplain, don’t ask, just trust the grace of God in the Sacrament. That became my model of ministry from then on. I never mentioned it to my bishop. Thankfully he never asked or I would have had to be honest. This encounter brought more homosexuals to the chapel, and the chapel community which was composed mainly of military retirees and National Guard personnel welcomed them.

In civilian churches of my old denominations I knew Gays and Lesbians who struggled and tried to do everything they could to change, but no-matter how hard they tried, how hard they prayed, how many times well meaning friends attempted to cast out their demons in rituals similar to exorcisms they struggled and suffered. Most eventually drifted away because they knew that they would not be accepted.  I have had friends in church whose children came out as gay or lesbian. Some loved and accepted them, others turned them away. Judy and I have always done what we can to support them as we would the children of any friend.

That understanding of God’s grace as well as what I believed were the fundamental Constitutional and human rights of Gays and Lesbians brought me to where I am today.

I know that a lot of conservative Christians have and will condemn me for these beliefs and actions, but for me honesty, integrity, empathy and love have to take precedence over hate, blame and prejudice, even when that prejudice is clothed in the words or faith and righteousness. I just figure that once we begin to use religion to condemn others and bolster our own political power that we are no better than people like Al Qaeda, ISIL or the Taliban. We are no better than the Inquisitors or others who destroyed cities and massacred people, even other Christians because they didn’t believe the right way.

I believe that it is just a small step from hateful thoughts and words to actions that end up in genocide. The “German Christians” of the Nazi era demonstrated that to a fine degree. The authors of the Bethel Confession, including Dietrich Bonhoeffer who protested the German Christian alliance with the Nazis noting:

“every attempt to establish a visible theocracy on earth by the church as a infraction in the order of secular authority. This makes the gospel into a law. The church cannot protect or sustain life on earth. This remains the office of secular authority.

That I believe with all my heart and that is why I will support and fight for the rights of the LGBT community in order to ensure that they have the same rights and privileges of any citizen. Otherwise what does the rule of law mean? What does the Constitution mean? What does that sentence in the Declaration of Independence that:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…” 

Abraham Lincoln wrote in 1854 concerning the rights of Blacks, something that is certainly applicable as well to homosexuals: “the standard maxim of free society …constantly spreading and deepening its influence,” ultimately applicable “to peoples of all colors everywhere.” 

That my friends, especially my conservative Christian friends who do not understand why I would speak up for the LGBT community, is why I do it. So in the words of my favorite heretic Martin Luther I state today: “Here I stand, I can do no other. So help me God. Amen.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

3 Comments

Filed under christian life, faith, LGBT issues, Political Commentary