Jesus Wears a Safety Pin for the One Queer Kid Who Will See It

This is why we wear safety pin! It may not seem like much but what it could potentially mean could be everything to someone. For that ONE person who needs it, that safety pin could be life saving!

Banishing Ursula

A queer person found their self surrounded by people wearing safety pins the other day, and breathed easier. “I knew I was among friends, and people had my back.”

Why would this be? Because now, with the election of Donald Trump, we are living in the United States of Fear and the safety pin has emerged as one symbol to demonstrate that the person wearing it is committed to providing safety for those targeted with the hate.

And there is a lot of hate. The Southern Poverty Law Center stays busy daily, tracking incidences of hateful harassment and intimidation since the election.

Incidences of bullying in schools have significantly increased throughout this election cycle, and in the first two days after Trump was elected, calls to The Trevor Project’s suicide hotline for LGBTQ youth more than doubled.

The outcry from loving Americans has been loud. It has also been…

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When We Question Our Own Divine Image

Psalm 139 reminds us all that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”  It’s an affirmation of reminding us that each and every one of us is created in a fully divine image.  

With the changing public square and the legitimate fears many minorities have, we need those affirmations to remind us that each and every human is divinely inspired.  

A couple of weeks ago, my seminary education and my queer identity took me to the dedication of a historical marker in downtown Kansas City, MO that commemorated the start of what we now call the LGBTQ movement.  It celebrates a national meeting of 40 organizations who met to create a strategy to strive for full inclusion of the LGBTQ folk in our society.

The dedication featured the typical pomp and circumstance with speeches from local politicians and activists as well as a performance from the Heartland Men’s Chorus, the local gay men’s chorus that I have been a member.  

That night a friend from that chorus took his own life.  A light in this world, one who was one of the first people I have met who demonstrated contagious, spiritual joy.  He performed in concerts specifically designed to combat bullying and prevent suicide.  Yet, he died by his own choice! It was a shock to all of us who mourn him.  Worse, his reasons are not clear.  Instead, those who loved him were left with only questions:  Why?  He was always so happy; how can this be?  After the questions came the if onlys and what ifs:  If only I had called him more, seen him more, been there for him.  What if I had just sent him a message?  

In my own processing of loss, I found myself wondering if he suffered internalized homophobia –that feeling of self-doubt, shame or worthlessness that comes from believing homophobic rants of others.  It is believing those things that question our own Divine image.  

In the reality of the recent election, I think that is why positive visibility of queer individuals in media is so important.  How we show the complexity of television show characters, for example, is vital to show the normalcy of being queer.  GLAAD just put out a report showing the percentage of characters on major network TV shows who are LGBTQ.  They are at an all time high however, it could be better pointing out how these shows fall short in their portrayals of queer women. 

It’s why Gay and Lesbian choruses, historical markers, and positive media portrayal matter.  They are continuing affirmations of how we as members of the Queer community also bear a part of God’s creation.  We were made in “our mother’s wombs,”  are part of God’s works and, called “good.”

May we see those works in ourselves.  

Embracing the “Other” History

“Until we find a way to own our collective stories around racism in this country, our history and the stories of pain will own us.”  —Brene Brown

In addition to the presidential debates, this week also marked the opening of the African American Smithsonian museum in Washington DC.  President Obama along with many other diverse leaders spoke at its opening.  But Obama praised it as “the story of us all.”

 

However, the museum was born in a swirl of controversy starting in 1994 with Jesse Helms questioning its validity both financially and morally in a speech on the Senate floor.  Today it receives criticism for providing a skewed version of history from Edward Rothstein of the Wall Street Journal.  Phillip Kennicott claims the museum is powerful but not powerful enough.  And, there will be undoubtedly some backlash from those who worry this type of museum will encourage racism or threaten their fragility.

My own religious study in seminary and my personal experience as a white, gay man tells me this museum is a vital part to the human story.  It is an opportunity for us to learn the history of the “other.” Yes, there those who are uncomfortable hearing the realities and horrors of slavery, oppression and segregation but, those stories greatly define the American story.  They need to be told and remembered.

Like this museum,  the Christian Bible is filled with stories that reflect oppression, slavery and mistreatment of people.  They exist for a reason.  Ignoring stories like this breeds ignorance.  Ignoring the story of Jephthah’s daughter who was sacrificed because her father’s brash behavior is to deny her worth.  Ignoring the oppression takes away the victory of the Exodus.  Ignoring these stories is a direct affront to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ who lived under the oppressive Roman Rule.

Instead, naming the stories of the the “other” as the African American Smithsonian does, gives us the opportunity to learn and grow in our faith and our country.  Paul’s words in Galatians are poignant when he claims that those of us blanketed in Christ will find there is no Greek or Jew, slave or free, male or female.  However, notice that we are one in that Church but, we have to name who we are: Greek, Jew, male, female, oppressed, enfranchised, Black, White, Asian, Latinx, Queer, Transgender, and so one.  The museum names parts of struggle that all need to hear if there is to be growth.  The museum names the progress of an oppressed people.  The museum celebrates accomplishment that everyone should embrace. For me it tells the story of an “other,”  but, at some point everyone is the “other.”

Tragedy holds hope if we act as the hands of God.  

 

My phone chirped relaying yet another tragedy gripping international headlines in the wake of the 15 year anniversary of 9/11:   The shootings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, North Carolina in June of 2015. 49 people died at Pulse night club a year later.  Officer shootings of Black Americans like Trayvon Martin,Michael Brown, and most recently Terrence Crutcher offend our sense racial justice. This is just some of the tragic headlines that bombard us and there are so many more.

Like many other persons of faith, I lift up thoughts and prayers with hope that God is still listening.  Even in my home church, we as a group ask God to “deliver us from evil.” Yet, I wonder, are we the evil in the world?   

These violent acts are not the only evil either.  Sitting idly back is itself an act of evil. Only praying for it to get better is idle if not followed with action.   We are God’s hands and hearts here on earth.  It is our job to beat our “swords into plow shares” as Micah and Isaiah suggest.  This is the gift of tragedy.  The acts of those who take tragedy and turn it into opportunity to demonstrate love.  

This revelation washed over me as watched Pulse shooting survivor Tony Moreno share his story of survival on the Ellen Show where he shared his story of loss of his best friend, the return to the support of his community at the Harry Potter World theme park, and has he shared his personal motivation song I Rise by Katy Perry.  

As I watched through tearful eyes, I took away these reflections:

  • Listen to the story.  Ellen used her platform to bring his story to the forefront but we can all listen to the story of tragedy in our own lives and experiences.  
  • Tell the story and give it meaning.  Recognize where this tragedy intersects in your own life and share that with others outside the direct effect of the tragedy.   
  • Find and embrace your community(ies).  Seek out others who can provide a sense of understanding  Recognize that your own community is a support and often mourns with you.  
  • Do something or challenge yourself and/or others.  Find where you can make a difference–financial support, protests, religious engagement, or something more creative.  More importantly follow through on that idea to truly be the hand and hope of God here on earth.

 

 

I recommend this for a stirring cover of Perry’s Rise: