Before I get to the letter I found, I first want to talk about what is a pivotal moment in history. We are living in a time of heated political debates circled around a cultural war – progressive thought versus conservative thought, new versus old, in versus out, left versus right. Politicians fight and serve their own interests, and what is often forgotten is the people in the middle, whom I believe make up the majority of the U.S. population. I tend to steer away from political social media debates and posting my political views. Except when it personally impacts me. Such is the case with the Indiana RFRA and my life as a gay man.
The backlash is strong, as evidenced on the Yelp page for Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana. Pardon my humored reference, but going to the page feels a lot like I’m watching The Legend of Billie Jean, where both sides are sending the same message found in the movie’s theme song from Pat Benatar:
We can’t afford to be innocent
Stand up and face the enemy
It’s a do or die situation, we will be invincible
And with the power of conviction
There is no sacrifice
It’s a do or die situation
We will be invincible
I’m a person of spirituality and faith but not of religion. I believe that religion mixed with government deteriorates the essence of how this country was founded. Religion, when by itself and nurtured by its individual follower in a private manner, is perfectly fine because it is not forcing the thought onto others. Fighting for equality and same protections for an unprotected class of LGBT citizens is not the same as forcing one’s religion onto the public or denying service in a business based on your personal convictions. While business may be considered private, we are still interacting and exchanging in public in a free market. Now I want to take time to address (not bash) our socially-conservative critics.
By all means, I am not opposed to you sharing your faith and thoughts, but in a loving, tolerant way. I do that with my friends, and we do not always agree. But for years, I have personally experienced hateful remarks and despise from people claiming to be Christian. I experienced discrimination and condemnation from my church as a Mormon (mainly because I did not know the Bible or Book of Mormon), but I am not making a blanket statement that all Mormons are hateful. There are plenty of wonderful, loving Christians not doing this, but unfortunately, my community has been the target of holy bullying, as have other minority groups. It has taken me years of personal growth – for I only have the power to change my reactions and feelings rather than the views of others – to see and understand that many, many Christians and other religions are LGBT allies, and likewise, I know many Republicans who support our cause.
I truly want those opposed to the LGBT cause to understand how difficult it is to wake up and face this daily, public persecution and keep calm but continue to fight. (Note that I am not actually speaking about your belief but rather the actions taken based upon your belief. I support your right to your belief.) Consider this for a moment. Why do you think there are not more minority groups reflected in the same philosophy and convictions as you? For years, my community has tried to sit down and openly discuss our cause with you. That was unsuccessful. If we stand up and fight, we are viewed as a “liberal lynch mob.” Yet, we constantly deal with the far-right politicians spreading fear and lies about who we truly are as human beings. While reading and watching the news reporting about this law, I have noticed defenders of it claim it is not anti-gay and protects all Hoosiers. Well, that is not the message sent and received when we see anti-LGBT lobbyists who authored the bill and were present at it’s signing. I cannot just sit back in the closet to comfort the misguided fear of this covert discrimination.
As a community, we have a lot of pain and anger, because of treatment as second-class citizens and the refusal of those to provide us the same human rights as yourself. But along with that pain and anger, we are strong and will speak the truth to dispel the misperception that we are evil. We tend to use wit and sarcasm in doing that. Granted, I do feel that the LGBT fight can take it a little too far with harsh attacks, just as you as a socially conservative Christian may feel.
My natural tendency is to sit at a table and listen to each other. We seem to be facing off in a battle right now, which makes that table talk appear to be impossible. But it isn’t. I do believe that our mutual actions can be the way to finding a balance. I’m not asking you to believe in my convictions. I possess an abundance of self-awareness and strength in myself as a citizen; however, I do ask that you pause and reflect on the message sent by denying my community essential rights and how that feels, just as you express in feeling persecuted. I am asking that together, we listen and see the value in equality for all, even if you are personally against same-sex marriage and other legal protections. It can be done. It already does exist without you needing to join me in my personal matters in my bed. I may consider myself a Democrat, but on the spectrum, I’m simply in the middle, with a little bit of everything. With that being said, I saw this letter and found it to be the most thought-provoking argument I have seen about this topic. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Dear Christians In Indiana (and those elsewhere, who might read this),
I’ve seen what’s been going on there lately. Actually, I’ve been watching you all along and I really need to let you know something, just in case you misunderstand:
This isn’t what I had planned.
This wasn’t the Church I set the table for.
It wasn’t the dream I had for you, when I spoke in those parables about the Kingdom; about my Kingdom.
It was all supposed to be so very different.
It was supposed to be a pervasive, beautiful, relentless “yeast in the dough” that permeated the planet; an unstoppable virus of compassion and mercy spread person-to-person, not needing government or law or force.
It was supposed to be that smallest, seemingly most insignificant of seeds, exploding steadily and gloriously with the realized potential of my sacred presence, becoming a place of safety and shelter for all people.
It was supposed to be…
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