A Brief Introduction

Endeavoring to define myself outside of a "job title." I'm a nomad of sorts who fell in love with technology, activism, and helping others. I run a web & media consulting firm, have a blog specifically for activists & non-profits, and travel often. I love talking about theology, politics, and social change. I love doing something about it even more. I also like to be a well-rounded and fully present person. That's why I write here. Connect with me on twitter

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Gentle Words

Borrowed from fellow rider, Cylest Brooks:

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have and it may just never be enough;
Give the world the best you have anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it's all between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

Mother Teresa

A Brief History of Soulforce

Soulforce was founded in 1999 by Rev Dr Mel White to counter religious and political based oppression of GLBT individuals. Following in the footsteps of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Soulforce believes in relentless non-violence to challenge homophobia.

It is the sad truth that much of the anti-gay rhetoric comes from churches and religious institutions. Such misuse of religion to sanction the condemnation and rejection of any of God’s children is spiritual violence. Soulforce staff and volunteers expose the harmful effects of anti-gay beliefs and practices at churches, denominational conferences, universities, military academies, and government facilities through dialogue and direct action.

We are all God's children and Soulforce is committed to spread the GOOD NEWS of God's message; refusing to let it be corrupted for oppression.

During the 2007 Equality Ride, 58 riders will travel to 33 schools across the country to start and continue a dialogue over these schools' policies which treat GLBT individuals differently. Some of these schools have openly gay students while others threaten expulsion for even expressing a GLBT-affirming opinion. Each school is different but they all officially sanction discrimination against GLBT individuals.

We do not come to these schools to be troublemakers, to stir things up, or to pull off a publicity stunt. We come to open our minds and our hearts, to share with students and staff, and to learn. We come to support the students on these campuses affected by these policies. We come to put a human face on this issue. We come for conversation.

God bless.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Ex-Gay Controversy

A growing number of Christians are realizing that the traditional treatment that homosexuals have received from the church is appalling and unacceptable. For too long they have conducted themselves in a decidedly unChristlike manner. It is uplifting that individuals and communities are looking for ways to improve. Unfortunately, some of them are embracing the ex-gay movement which, while it stresses respecting and loving homosexuals, also stresses their ability to change. While change is not a prerequisite for their love, it is the expected outcome. The GLBT community is still being told that if they don't "repent" they are doing something wrong. It seems the message hasn't changed that much at all. I offer below my thoughts about the work of a particular ex-gay author and speaker, twenty-something Chad Thompson.

First off, I would like to say that sincerely hope that Chad has come to a place in his life where he is at peace with himself, it seems from his talk that he is. There are far too many GLBT Christians in our country and in our world who never find peace and Chad and I agree that this is simply unacceptable. I can't, and won't, debate the validity of Chad's own experiences or the convictions he holds. I trust that he is coming from a place of honesty, genuinely seeking to do good.

Chad states (on his website) that "For Christians to be effective, we must use not only our words but also our hands, feet, minds, hearts, voices, time, resources, and attention to show our love to people who identify as LGBT." That is such a terrific goal! However, I am concerned that Chad's stated objective is not being met by his actions.

What Chad is doing is taking his own personal experience struggling with his homosexuality, generalizing it to apply to every single homosexual, and then going and talking to heterosexual Christians about it. I bet Chad spends time meeting and speaking with individuals who are questioning their orientation, but he makes a living as an author and public speaker. And at most places, his audiences are predominately heterosexual.

In the end, his message is that GLBT are NOT as they should be and that they can—and should—change. It is the same old condemnation repackaged with a shiny new cover. In not so many words, he's telling Christians that it is OK to continue to look down upon their GLBT brother and sisters. Extensive research has shown that human sexuality is not as changeable as Chad makes it out to be. He says that God will change them if they ask. What happens when to the ones that don't change? What happens to the prayerful and faithful GLBT Christians who do not experience a change in their orientation? The loathing and self-hatred will still be there. They will still think that they are doing something wrong. They will still feel rejected. They will still feel inadequate when they are God's children; fearfully and wonderfully made. Chad is preaching to straight Christians that every single GLBT person can change and that anyone who hasn't simply doesn't want to. I can only imagine how empty that must sound to a Christian struggling in isolation in the closet against something he or she has no control over. This is not a loving message.

Chad spends considerable time discussing what makes a person homosexual. In a similar train of thought, I'm interested in what makes a person an ex-gay. Chad was raised in a violently homophobic household. He was told that being gay was vile, sinful, and damning. It is no wonder that he wanted to change! The real travesty is not his sexuality but rather that he lives in a world which tells him that he must try to change who he is in order to be accepted. I only wish that rather than rushing to condemnation of himself, Chad would spend some time investigating where these messages of "there is something wrong with you" are coming from.

It is unfortunate that Chad never goes into any depth about why homosexuals should try to change their orientation. He does say that he "knew it wasn't what God wanted" but was it what God wanted or was it what the people around him wanted? He couldn't even check out books from the library for fear of discovery. If Chad was raised in an environment that allowed him to investigate these voices, would he still feel that he needed to change?

Rather debating whether or not change is possible (and as every single person is different, I think any attempt to define what causes a person to be homosexual or what constitutes change is probably impossible) I believe that it is more important to address the underlying question of "Why are GLBT people being told that they need to change?"

I would challenge everyone to take a moment to reflect on that question. In the end, it is far more important than any statistic or survey or "success story". Before offering solutions, let's make sure that we are answering the correct question.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Jesus Camp

Jesus Camp focuses on Pentecostal preacher Becky Fleischer and the children and families that attend her annual summer camp "Kids on Fire Summer Camp" though considerably more time is spent on her, Levi (now 13), Rachel (now 10), and Tory (now 11). The film presents an eye-opening look at a more disturbing side of Evangelical Christianity. Obviously any documentary is subject to editing and sound design and the message, themes, and characters can be given a slant, it gives you at least a sense of what is out there.

This comes as a jarring antithesis to my own personal life experiences. I recently discovered that I was an evangelical for most of my life and that many of my friends are, according to the sociological definition of the term. I had never even thought to consider that my experiences in my Presbyterian youth group and through YoungLife fell under that banner. I was always just a Christian. This Christianity presented in this film is not the Christianity that I experienced. I think it is important that when viewing this film, one not make sweeping generalizations. This is one particular woman and her church group, it does not represent the totality of American Christian, not even American Evangelical Christians.

As a Christian who believes in the overwhelming power of God and of the Good News, it breaks my heart to hear a pastor advocate for the "indoctrination" (her words) of youth. Indoctrination is what you must do when you do not have truth on your side. God doesn't need warriors, salespeople, or PR agents. He just needs devoted individuals to follow his commands. Love God and love our neighbors. He's God, I think he can handle the rest.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Jesus, The Bible, and Homosexuality

Why am I doing this? I am not gay. No one in my family is gay. That is why I was able to stay on the sidelines for so long. It didn't touch me personally / I am a Christian who cares deeply about Christ's church. . . . This is a defining issue of our time.
- Jack Rogers; Jesus, The Bible, and Homosexuality
In his short book, Jack Rogers recounts his journey through GLBT issues from his theological roots, his ministerial positions, and his changing views on equality and inclusion. Rogers is an ordained minister of the PC(USA) church, he attended a conservative/evangelical seminary, and he in the past objected to the ordination of openly gay ministers. He served as moderator for one of the PC(USA) General Assemblies and has attended many others either as a seminary professor or an official representative. He has been directly involved in exploratory committees on the issues and after thoughtful and prayer consideration, Rogers has emerged on the other side as an advocate for full inclusion of GLBT individuals into the Christian family.

I commend Rogers on his straightforward approach. He doesn't beat around the bush or waste time with formalities. He makes no secret of his positions, past and present, and he gives guidance with a voice of authority.

To many Christians, gay people talking about how the Bible does not condemn them rings too much like alcoholics trying to justify their abuse. Luckily Rogers and others like him stand in solidarity with their GLBT brothers and sisters in Christ, unencumbered by accusations of selfish interests, speaking with authority that this marginalization can no longer be tolerated. There is no sin in being GLBT. Equality Rider Bram Wispelwey puts it this way, "Causing or even allowing any of God's children to feel like something less than His perfectly loved child may be the greatest heresy of the Christian faith." Bram rightfully sees it as what it is. This is not a gay issue, "this is a Christian issue, a human issue."



Most of us believe in God's grace--in theory. But somehow we can't seem to apply it in our daily lives. We continue to see Him as a small-minded bookkeeper, tallying our failures and successes on a score sheet. Yet God gives us his grace, willingly, no matter what we've done. We come to Him as ragamuffins--dirty, bedraggled, and beat-up. And when we sit at His feet, He smiles upon us, the chosen objects of His "furious love."
A short while ago (read: 2.5 months), Brennan Manning came to speak at my church in Los Angeles, Bel Air Presbyterian, while our pastor was on sabbatical. Apparently I'm not up to snuff on my Christian authors because I had never heard of him before, but I think in the end I'm glad for that. I got to hear his message for the first time in person, which was really cool.

"God loves you just as you are, not as you should be, for you will never be as you should be."

That was the point he repeated over and over again. What a terrific point! For all of the fuss that modern-day Christianity is making, the simple truth is that Jesus came that we might know that God loves us, wants the best for us, and accepts us home just the way we are. We don't have to be perfect--or even good--before we come wandering back, His arms are already wide open.

Being thoroughly reinvigorated by the sermon and with Christmas only a few weeks away, his book The Ragamuffin Gospel, seemed like a natural thing to ask for when I got the annual phone call from Grandma.

I now betray my slow reading pace as I just finished the book a few days ago. It's not that I'm a slow reader, it's that I'm an infrequent reader. But I digress. The Ragamuffin Gospel was an neatly articulated, refined, more scripturally supported version of Manning's sermon. Plain and simple. My mind a few times strayed to the current "struggle" that Equality Ride is dealing with, though I attempted to read it with an unclouded mind.

If you are a Christian, I would highly recommend this book as a way to remember what is really important in life. If you aren't a Christian, I would highly recommend this book, too. Looking at the news headlines you might wonder why anyone would want to be a Christian -- this will answer that.

And if, for whatever reason, you feel lost and hopeless. Unloved or unworthy. Abandoned, betrayed, or simply alone. You definitely need to read this.

We come to God not because we have it all together, but because we are beat-up, worn out, and eager for rest. In the end, we all ragamuffins, and God loves us all just the same.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Friends, Fundraisers, and Goodbyes

All good things must come to an end and here in Austin they certainly have. After a week filled with long days we were able to take it easy Saturday night. We attended a fundraiser in our honor at a local Austin art gallery and were greeted by the Soul Force Board of Directors, donors, potential donors, friends, family, and a few locals.

It was our first experience being out in the world as Equality Riders, having been hidden away in the bowels of Best Western thus far. Seeing all the excited faces at the fundraisers was refreshing. And having news cameras pointed at me was interesting. It's something we're going to have to get used to.

After the fundraiser, the Equality Riders made their way to a local bar -- Charlie's -- for some drinks and dancing. A pool table was the first thing after the bouncer. Yup, we're in Texas! Cutting loose with all of the Riders and not having to worry about schedules, and policies, and plans for once was a bonding experience we all were happy to have. Joey spotted the news coverage of our fundraiser on the television above the bar and the DJ gave us a shout-out. I think the evening really brought us together as a group. USA here we come!

Sunday was a bitter-sweet day. I for one was happy to be going home to my own bed and the prospect of not having to work 15 hour days was enticing to say the least. We spent our last evening together sharing where we were before Austin, where we are now, and where we're going. There was LOTS of sharing and it took us a solid 3 hours to wrap everything up but doing so really gave us a sense of who we were as a group. These people are some of the most amazing people I have ever met. They come from all around the country and they bring them open minds and loving hearts. I cannot wait to share them with the world and grow to know them even better.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Training in Austin

A van picked me, and a handful of other Equality Riders, up from the Austin, TX airport and transported us to the Best Western that will be our home for the next week. As the afternoon turned into evening the rest of the riders trickled--and sometimes flooded-- in. Presented with all of these new faces, the only option was clearly a meet-and-greet icebreaker. Yes, they are cheesy; but after being subjected to them twice daily, I have to admit they work.

One of my roommates for training is Matt Kulish (pictured here with the lovely Amy Scott), who you will recognize from the Equality Ride preview if you did your homework and watched it. Rooming with him gives me a different perspective on this whole endeavor. For my entire life I have either lived in the DC-Metropolitan suburbs or the heart of Los Angeles. The worst discrimination GLBT people receive is a passing joke. I joined this ride because I knew it was the right thing to do, but after talking with Matt and others like him, I now know it's the only thing to do. It's so much more serious now (while still being very fun, don't get me wrong). This training is providing me a perspective of the community that I had never seen before. A dark and gritty side. A side where suicide and depression are real problems, where homophobia means excommunication not just a snide comment. In some cerebral way I have always known the discrimination against GLBT people is still an issue, but that Matt is the first person I have ever met to face discrimination for being GLBT makes realize just how blessed I have been in life. Hopefully by the end of April the world will be a little bit better.

For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.
Luke 12:48

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