Westboro Baptist plans to picket and protest Elizabeth Edwards' funeral. Yes. You read that correctly, and you can read about it here
. People are outraged, regardless of faith, or belief, or political stance. Hate and ignorance speaks across the boundaries we create to invigorate our deeper sensibilities. Now, I could launch into a diatribe about the nature of hate and love, the universal understanding of what's hateful and what's loving. But, I don't have the energy to do so. I'm a Christian. I'm a Baptist. Westboro purportedly shares these characteristics with me. Yet, I can't find one thread of commonality between them and me. I can't find out where our beliefs overlap. I struggle to verbalize my disdain, my anger, their theft of my identity. Their claim to truth makes humanity shudder and God quake with anger, I guess (at least I hope).I'd like to think that Westboro is the modern-day "Cain", jealous of humanity, ashamed of their lives. I'd like to think that Westboro could find a place of redemption.I'd like to think that angels will one day picket Fred Phelps funeral one day.I'd like to think that God will one day judge them for their injuries caused to humanity's body. I'd like to tell them to go to hell. But, I'm afraid they're already there. I'm afraid they can't find any rest for their soul. I'm afraid they simply want to distort the lives of others, to degrade the mourning of good people. There's no reasoning with Westboro, no making sense of their ignorance. Any attempt only backfires. If we want to speak out against them, we must live into realities that make this remarkable "show of the worst of humanity" impossible. Not because we legislate it. Not because we issue an executive order. But because we have recognized our common humanity, and common humanity declares respect. I could argue against Westboro on theological, philosophical, humanist terms. Yet, I'm not concerned with them. This story isn't about them, it's about Elizabeth Edwards – her life, the good she did, and the hope she inspired. As the old saying goes, "When Westboro shows up to picket your funeral, you must be doing something right." Amen.Amen.Amen.
Sometimes I regret that I posses the title, "Christian". It's unfortunate that it carries a negative connotation with many. Heck, I'm a Baptist – that certainly doesn't help. I've been trying to figure out what the title "Christian" means. This has proven difficult, because, well, I hate generalizations and stereotypes. So, while I am perceived as being a certain way because of stereotypes and generalizations, I risk making them because they're what I, as a member of Western Society, have been taught to do. When I was 7 I "walked the aisle" to make a profession of faith. I prayed the sinner's prayer. Yes, the sinner's prayer.
The prayer from the Southern Baptist Convention (in which I was baptized) goes like this: "Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and I do not deserve eternal life. But, I believe You died and rose from the grave to make me a new creation and to prepare me to dwell in your presence forever. Jesus, come into my life, take control of my life, forgive my sins and save me. I am now placing my trust in You alone for my salvation and I accept your free gift of eternal life." Yea - sounds an awful lot like Jesus plays Santa Claus. Now, years later, I don't think that was what I really needed to pray, or was anything like Jesus wanted. Jesus called us to live radically into love, which entailed loving and being love. Forgiveness becomes a side-effect of love, but hardly the main thrust.
I'd like to tell people I follow Jesus, but I bear the name "Christian" intentionally now. I'm not the crusader trying to reclaim the name, or reform the name. Rather, the name of Christian provokes conversations and helps people see that compassion is the central meaning of Christianity. Sure, books have been written about this, but I'm more interested in people living-out love. I'm more interested in people believing that the "Christ" they accepted calls for us to love. I'm interested in a 'confession' of faith, one that admits I have faith in the life of Jesus. I have faith that the life of a Jewish Man lived over 2000 years ago remains relevant even today. I admit it. That's perfectly fine by me.
My Christian siblings who are more concerned with peddling hate and fear, rather than love are my siblings. No matter how far I run from them, no matter how much I want to separate myself from them, I cannot. I need them because we share this dwelling together.
There are many that feel that they "get it" or "know the real way", and they come in the conservative and liberal flavor. The command to love stands over claims of truth. Pointing the blaming finger or the struggle to own the truth leaves humanity bloody and bruised. When we become drunk on the wine of righteousness and belief that we have nailed down the truth, forget not, there was a government, long ago, that thought they had nailed down the truth.
I know what time it is, how it is now the moment for us to wake from a slumber. For humanity's wholeness is nearer to us each moment we love; the night is far-gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of hatred and put on the armor of love; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and self-righteousness, not in ignorance and individualism, not in extremism and bigotry. I'm a Christian, and I'm learning to love and be loved each day. I hope you are too. It is easy to love those that think like us, talk like us, or believe like us. Jesus was willing to have dinner with Pharisees, gave hope to a thief, and asked forgiveness for his oppressors. My lover's prayer is simple: "God, give me the grace to love; the grace to be a healer; the grace not to hate."
"Manalapan High School students took a stand against hatred Wednesday. News that the Westboro Baptist Church — a group from Topeka, Kan., notorious for its picketing of U.S. soldiers' funerals — planned to protest Manalapan High's staging of "The Laramie Project" galvanized the school community Wednesday in a way that astonished many of the play's organizers."
This is the same group that has displayed signs at soldiers’ funerals and picketed at the Sago Mine Memorials with signs that say, “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for dead miners.” They are listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, which is pretty unsurprising.
There are many reasons this group could inflame me. Namely, I’m a baptist, and I certainly don’t like being lumped into the same group as this extremist hate group. But, denominations are denominations, and labeling them as a hate group should keep their distance from any baptist prayer meetings.
In a world where pain reigns and brokenness is all around, one more voice advocating for the destruction and demise of peoples does not sit well with me. A message of hate is nothing new, nor is it something that will grow a better world. The negative energy spent preaching a hateful gospel manipulates. Power has unequivocal pessimism to fuel abuse and breakdown.
Do you really think God is killing humans and creating tragedies because of LGBTQ groups? We are told a narrative that declares we are made in a divine image. If God kills miners who are at the mercy of big business, what does God do to those who cause division and pain? Why would God choose the lowest and poorest to suffer punishment?
If I haven’t been clear, hear this: God doesn’t hate Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transsexuals, Queers.
If I haven’t been clear, hear this: God desires justice, love, and peace.
When someone bears a sign that says “God Hates Fags!” they are only displaying their own insecurity. They are projecting their own fear of what they do not know. These signs, these declarations of hate, these most painful and despicable divisive actions are only laments for their ignorance.
These signs are prayers of desperation for peace, for knowledge. Prayers of desperation that God does not answer, we should not silence those prayers, we recognize the person’s desperation cry to God.
So, I will pray. I will offer my voice to the daily conversations in an effort to make whole this broken world. These cannot be platitudes. My words cannot be empty. No one, no group deserves the hate of another. They are to be held accountable, not to my way of thinking, not to any system, but to humanity and God – who is Love, not Hate. We must hold in check our words and actions because no matter what our religion, political affiliation, favorite candy bar, cellphone, Facebook page, car, magazine, we exist together. To eliminate the possibility of another human being is to suffocate the humanity between another.
It’s tough to look in the eyes of one who holds a hateful sign, speaks a harmful word, or swings a violent fist and declare we love them and they deserve love. But, my friends, I will not be moved. If grace is not possible then the future of our humanity is nothing but bleak and cold. If grace is not possible, then pull the color out of the world and cut down any vestige of hope. If grace is not possible, then put bars on my windows, lock the door, and throw away the key. If the love of God is not possible for all, then what's faith for? Our world is bigger than Westboro and our humanity declares a greater possibility than any slogan on a sign can ever contain.
Westboro plans picket lines, God plans grace. Grace is available for Westboro, will Westboro find grace for themselves?
We are the best of humanity. We are the worst of humanity. We are the likeness of God. We are the intention of evil. We are the voracious consumers of love, and the scrupulous evolution of hope. The message of love does not know a political barrier – or a theological stance. Loving doesn't care about the doctrine of God, love cares for the providing and caring of the least of these. No doubt, that groups such as Westboro will have their judgment pronounced upon them, for theirs is not the kingdom of God. They drink the dirtied and muddied waters of hate and indifference. They do not drink from the well-spring of life, from the cool waters that refresh. While Westboro travels around spouting hate, I try to live a life of love. Our responsibility as those that profess to live the life of Jesus, that use the name Jesus, is to strive to live that name represents. It is of love. Let us not forget, the words of Mr. Wilde: "Every sinner has a future; every saint has a past."
Where picket lines are drawn, demarcations of hate built, and barriers of indifference fortified, grace will pummel and sustain those that pelt walls with words of love, peace, and hope. Where trenches harboring messengers of injustice are dug-out, the no-man’s land will be filled with peace. Where silos, bunkers, garrisons, citadels, castles, and bastions of brutal hate are entrenched, there you will find the possibility of grace. It is the cry of grace that says: “My body is bruised and bloody; but, unbowed.”
Today, Those Crazy Liberals and Conservatives welcomes Malachi Kosanovich, author of the blog "Transitional Heresies." TCLC thanks Malachi for not only a contribution to the conversation, but leading the conversation.
Today it is raining and I am ironing my purple shirt and I am crying. Today we remember the victims of bullying, harassment, and hate crimes – particularly those victims for whom it got so bad that death was better than any form of life imaginable.
It is wrong. It is wrong that we have to have today. It is wrong that we need a day set aside to remember these poor children who have died because of the malice and cruelty of other people.
And I blame us all. Each and every single one of us.
We have failed to live up to our capabilities. We have failed to live up to what we are meant to be as divine creatures. Scriptures from every tradition teach us the same thing:
Those who act kindly in this world will have kindness. Islam. Qur'an 39.10
Those who do not abandon mercy will not be abandoned by me. Shinto. Oracle of the Kami of Itsukushima
Mencius said, "'Benevolence' means 'man.' When these two are conjoined, the result is 'the Way.'" Confucianism. Mencius VII.B.16
Have benevolence towards all living beings, joy at the sight of the virtuous, compassion and sympathy for the afflicted, and tolerance towards the indolent and ill-behaved. Jainism. Tattvarthasutra 7.11
The world stands upon three things: upon the Law, upon worship, and upon showing kindness. Judaism. Mishnah, Abot 1.2
Gentle character it is which enables the rope of life to stay unbroken in one's hand. African Traditional Religions. Yoruba Proverb (Nigeria)
He who can find no room for others lacks fellow feeling, and to him who lacks fellow feeling, all men are strangers. Taoism. Chuang Tzu 23
Treat people in such a way and live amongst them in such a manner that if you die they will weep over you; alive they crave for your company. Islam (Shiite). Nahjul Balagha, Saying 9
What sort of religion can it be without compassion?
You need to show compassion to all living beings.
Compassion is the root of all religious faiths. Hinduism. Basavanna, Vachana 247
The bhikkhu who abides in loving-kindness, who is pleased with the Buddha's teaching, attains to that state of peace and happiness, the stilling of conditioned things, Nibbana. Let him be cordial in all his ways and refined in conduct; filled thereby with joy, he will make an end of ill. Buddhism. Dhammapada 368, 376
"An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will". The Wiccan Rede
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these." Christianity, The Gospel of Mark, 12:30-31.
It’s not hard. Be kind. Be compassionate. This is what scriptures of all kinds tell us. And we are failing miserable.
Here’s the thing. I am gay. I am gender queer. I am green-eyed. I am short. I have freckles. I read science fiction. I play scrabble obsessively.
I don’t live or die by whether anyone likes any of these things. I will survive without acceptance. I will survive without tolerance. I have friends and family that will affirm me in who I am and in the choices I make.
In truth most of us in the LBGTQ community will find communities who affirm and support us. Most of us will survive without the “tolerance” or “affirmation” of a particular person or community. Some of us may want general tolerance and acceptance, but we can live happy and productive lives in our found communities without them.
But we cannot live without kindness. We cannot live without compassion.
It’s not hard. Kindness can take the form of non-action just as much as it takes the form of action. Just don’t tease or bully or harass us. Don’t stare at us when we go out to dinner with our partners. Don’t call us names as we walk past you on the streets. Stay silent when you disapprove of us. Leave us alone instead of mocking our gender expression.
Or be active – teach your children not to call us names. Take the hate-filled stickers off of your cars. Stop someone from making vulgar jokes at our expense. When you see children bullying others, stand up and say no.
These things aren’t hard. I promise they are not. And they don’t have to mean that you like or approve of anyone in the LGBTQ community. They are simple acts of kindness and compassion.
They are acts of kindness and compassion that can save lives, in very literal ways.
The world – not just LGBTQ communities – has lost Justin Aaberg, 15;
Raymond Chase, 19;
Zach Harrington, 19;
Billy Lucas, 15;
Seth Walsh, 13;
Tyler Clementi, 18;
Asher Brown, 13; and
Aiyisha Hassan, 19 among many others.
Could we have saved these children if we had been more kind? If we had had more compassion? Would these people still be walking and talking and living and breathing if any one or two or three of us had had enough compassion to care for them? What if each and every one of us had been that compassionate?
What if every one of us said ‘stop’ when someone made a joke at an LGBTQ person’s expense? What if every single one of us consoled someone with a broken heart, regardless of what gender broke it? What if we valued kindness and compassion more than power?
What if every single one of us stood up and said, ‘Hate. Is. Not. The. Way.’?
…We could save the world.
I grew up in a church culture that shot hell-fire at people who attended church irregularly. They came only when the felt the guilt to attend: Easter & Christmas. Frankly, I never really cared, I guess I don't now. If it grants some people some peace of mind, or a bit of tradition, so be it. A problem arises when we, the Church, have failed to make the rest of the church calendar engaging and transforming. Indeed, many times we end up pushing people away. What follows is a reflection I wrote after Easter this past year. Perhaps you too have wanted to find a revitalization of the possibilities of those revered days in the liturgical calendar, cause I do.
Today marks the third Sunday of Easter. I find it hard to believe that three weeks ago bright colors filled pews of Christian churches across the country. Yet, today, there were still bright spring colors, but fewer bodies. This isn’t a blog about how we need to get more year-round Christians and less Easter and Christmas Christians, why repeat what so many in vain have tried to say. This isn’t a blog about the need for a moral revolution in America. Many saying that only want a 1950′s-style moral re-institution. The season of Easter has not stopped, and one day does mark the entire season. This blog is about our dashing away from the resurrection just as quickly as we dash to the empty tomb.
Between the bodies at church today sat worlds of possibility. I sat pondering the inadequacies the human spirit grants. When I finished with that thought I moved quickly to the great triumphal spirit about us. When we fail at something we reference the Fall, and when we succeed we reference God’s goodness. When moral turpitude prevails we offer condemning words, but when we discover a ‘moral success,’ we praise it to high heaven. We call out the need to love, but rarely translate word into action. We will cast out a hateful word, but in it’s place give nothing of substance: hate will return.
Forgetting we live in an Easter season deprives us of the spiritual depth and possibility. For one day many of us share in Mary’s joy and Thomas’ Doubt. For the days and weeks following we forget the stone was rolled away. Easter calls for renewal and change, the type of change that happened from the tomb to the Resurrection. We call this type of change, transformation. Transformation beckons people to be reborn, remade, and resurrected. We all can identify with Nicodemus, who wanted to go back and start all over. How many of us so desperately want to go back into the womb, and begin anew?
We can’t. There’s no going back. You have been thrust into this existence with wars and rumors of wars. Yet, are we thrust also into meaninglessness? Are we too thrust into impossibility?
Hate, injustice, indifference, and greed are all words we use to build a wall between those that are ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ These words are not opposite any other attitude, only attitudes without a resurrection.
Hate: love placed in the tomb.
Injustice: equality with a stone blocking the exit.
Indifference: hope considered nothing but a rotting corpse.
Greed: charity bruised, bloody, and breathless.
Easter grants possibility. Easter grants resurrection. Where there is Christ, a resurrection is always around the corner. What do we need to resurrect? What needs life? Does a hateful army need resurrection? Do they need love resurrected? When we have condemned people to the tomb they live in, we have rolled a stone over redeeming possibility we call “God’s Grace.” Do we leave people, Godforsaken, in the tomb? Or, do we seek the resurrection Mary tells all about?
As I left church this morning I couldn’t help but wonder, “Are the empty spaces waiting for a resurrection? Are they too calling out for new possibility?” Yes. They are looking for people who need to hear a redemptive word, for those who have become complacent in the injustice. Empty spaces beckon for the stone to be rolled away, and for us to proclaim: “We have risen!”