Peace in Revolt

IMG_2097To every person who has shown up for protests, who has engaged in painful conversations: thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Jesus was a refugee when his parents had to flee Bethlehem; Jesus is the refugee babe in the ambulance too shocked to speak.

And to everyone who cannot protest: thank you, too.

I mean this with all humility and love: showing up matters, but showing up doesn’t always look like being physically at the protest.

There are infinite legitimate reasons why people cannot always march. PTSD. Anxiety. A shift you can’t miss for risk of losing the job. A shift you need to pay the rent. A paper to write in a class that is doing the slow and steady work of transforming your spirit to be ready for constant revolution. Schoolwork that needs doing because you’ve been so eaten up with anxiety it has sat untouched for so long. No babysitter. No money for a babysitter. Children who are too young to know this isn’t the time for a tantrum. Children who are sick. Parents who are sick. You are sick. Your body isn’t cooperating today. Your body is one that wears faster during long walks and standing outside. Your body is not welcome.

By the looks of things, we are going to be praying with our feet a lot these next four years. As my friend Jes Kast said: “This is not a sprint. Run the race with endurance.”

Taking time to be ready is not disengaging. Taking time to be present to joy is not uncaring. Taking time to rest is not a lack of resilience.

It moves me beyond words to see how “thoughts and prayers for those affected” has transformed into people showing up in the streets to pray with their bodies.

But as a person of faith, i still affirm the power of prayer. Contemplation needs action. And so prayer is absolutely protest. But it is also stillness, and furious dancing, and time apart, and presence.

Our hearts are being challenged and pushed to grow wider, which means there is more room for heartbreak, more people to love and hurt for. This is leaning into our calling to welcome the stranger and love our neighbor and walk humbly, love mercy, and do justice.

Giving yourself permission to seek peace is not the same thing as being at peace with the status quo. 



 

Jesus Loves Queer People! Reflections on the #UMassUnited Counter-Action to the Westboro Baptist Church

Almost a year ago, the amazing Rachel Held Evans wrote a piece on the CNN Belief Blog entitled “Why Millennials are Leaving the Church.” Of the many reasons she elucidates, she fundamentally argues that the contemporary church must be more authentic and, consequentially, extend Jesus-like love to all people:

“Time and again, the assumption among Christian leaders, and evangelical leaders in particular, is that the key to drawing twenty-somethings back to church is simply to make a few style updates edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall, a pastor who wears skinny jeans, an updated Web site that includes online giving . . . 
“What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance . . .
“We want our LGBT friends to feel truly welcome in our faith communities.”

Last Wednesday, bundled in my wool coat against the (unwelcome) mid-April freeze, friends and i made our way to our neighboring school, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Two weeks prior, UMass became home to the first out Division I basketball player, Derrick Gordon. It was a huge moment for the Pioneer Valley, and a huge moment for breaking down homophobic barriers in a traditionally masculinist, homophobic space.

And not a few days later did the infamous Westboro Baptist Church announce that they would be making camp at UMass to protest Derrick’s courage. (Well, that’s not the way put it, but you know what i mean.)

I sprang into action, contacting as many of my Mount Holyoke friends as i could rallying around a counter-protest. Of course, the folks at UMass were doing the same thing, but rather than giving the WBC more airplay by orchestrating a massive counter-protest, these leaders created something called #UMassUnited. A movement, a march, and a rally focused on creating an uplifting, queer-positive space that celebrated the love between people of any gender and the love of our wider community. So that Wednesday, we MHC pilgrims rolled up with our poster boards and scarves ready to join their ranks.

We wanted to outshine the WBC so much that our love was greater than the hate they bore on their signs. We wanted to show that Derrick Gordon is a whole human being, whose sexuality should not have to be so politicized as it is only one facet of his identity. And we wanted to embrace all among us who were scarred by the venom spewed by the WBC.

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That night, watching video clips and reading articles covering the demonstration, i knew we’d been successful. Almost every news outlet mentioned the #UMassUnited protest before mentioning the five WBC people who decided to show up for twenty minutes across campus.

10259951_2266412825118_2675391619399941410_nI was quite chuffed to find my own sign was mentioned here, on LGBTQ Nation, and littered across Instagram. I meant every word and i was grateful that LGBTQIA people were so excited to see a Christian in their ranks.

But it was even more exciting to me to see how many other Christian signs there were in the crowd, people taking a stand for love and reclaiming a faith co-opted and corrupted by the likes of the WBC. Two of the speakers at the rally were pastors at local churches. The cohort of MHC students who i’d come with all bore signs with God-like themes: “God is Love” read one, another with 1 John 4:7 written out.

It never fails to amaze me, to humble me, and to keep me faithful when so many Christians come out for queer rights. And maybe this shocks me because, as much as i agree with Rachel Held Evans’ piece, maybe we are the majority. Maybe folks like the WBC have been given too much screen time and rallies like #UMassUnited aren’t as sensational to talk about.

10246297_2266228900520_6162120665235027386_nI meant the front of my sign. I still mean it. But i had also made my sign double-sided, in part because i wanted people to still read it when i held it up in the air, and more so because there is a second message i think necessary to the one “Jesus loves queer people.” On the back, i wrote “Jesus Loves ALL of US.

I was working very, very hard to mean the back.

The part about all of us. And as much as it singes my throat to admit it, all of us includes and included those five people from the Westboro Baptist Church.

The beauty of #UMassUnited was in the celebration of love, and in the refusal to give into the hate of the WBC. I may not welcome the WBC views, attitude, language, or theology. But i’m pretty sure Jesus would still welcome them to the table. Not out of approval of what they say, but because they, too, bear God’s image.

Whenever i am struggling to remember this all-embracing theology, i turn to one of my favorite human beings: Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In a sermon given in 2005, he made this radical statement:

“This family has no outsiders. Everyone is an insider. When Jesus said, “I, if I am lifted up, will draw…” Did he say, “I will draw some”? “I will draw some, and tough luck for the others”? He said, “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all.” All! All! All! – Black, white, yellow; rich, poor; clever, not so clever; beautiful, not so beautiful. All! All! It is radical. All! Saddam Hussein, Osama bin laden, Bush – – all! All! All are to be held in this incredible embrace. Gay, lesbian, so-called “straight;” all! All! All are to be held in the incredible embrace of the love that won’t let us go.”

I love that. I love it because we have a religious leader who has fought injustice after injustice losing no steam as he fights the next battle. I love it because he says God loves terrorists, God loves us in our often fruitless labels.

And i love it because it means God loves broken me as much as She loves Derrick Gordon and those five people who came from the Westboro Baptist church.

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Love is Stronger than Hate.

Today i went to a protest calling for the repeal of Amendment One in Raleigh, the capitol of North Carolina. Though we were a small crowd, we were a mighty one – and we were enough to require a police escort. Whether they were more there to protect us or watch us, i was unsure, but either way i was glad of their presence. I re-used my sign from election day as i left from work directly to pick up my friend and drive to Raleigh, so it was a little out of place (but the message remained, so i didn’t care too much).

We walked all through the center of Raleigh, chanting things like “love is greater than hate, separation of church and state!” We got some exuberant, gleeful honks from people driving which was so satisfying. There were some nasty looks, but i didn’t care. We were peaceful, if not a little loud, and i felt so sure of what we were doing that the nasty looks didn’t matter.

It was wonderful to be a part of a movement for equality and, while i don’t think we necessarily changed anyone’s minds i still feel what we were doing was important in its own small way. In the midst of a state that legalized such prejudice, we few took a public stand saying we disagreed. And that was enough.

Friends don’t lend friends remain silent in the face of inequality.

If you’re interested, News 14 Carolina covered the event, including a close-up on Faith’s poster (and if you look closely you can see us marching!).