I wince every time I say the word,
Especially in connection with Jesus.
Yet as I read the birth stories about Jesus,
I can not help but conclude that although the world may be tilted toward the rich and powerful,
God, hallelujah in His mercy, is still on the side of the underdog.
- Audio Adrenaline, "Underdog"
A Brief Introduction
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Saturday, May 26, 2007
My name is Brian Murphy. I am currently employed at the qubo network, a children's network put together by NBC, ION Television, Scholastic, Nelvana (Babar), and Big Idea (Veggie Tales). After work, I normally make myself dinner, check my email, and read the news. After spending some time with my roommates, I read my Bible and go to sleep.
I attend Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Southern California. Wednesday nights used to be Campus Crusade, but now it's Bible study at the church. Growing up (and now during holidays), I go to Fourth Presbyerian Church in Bethesda, MD (where I am still a member).
I was raised in Potomac, MD. My father is a patent attorney. My mother is a social worker and worked for YoungLife for seven years (some before I was born, some while I was in high school). Every summer I go on a vacation with my extended family.
Sometimes on the weekends I go to Disneyland with my friends. I'm a big fan of movie nights. The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. I try to spend it in DC with my friends from high school whenever possible.
In high school, I was involved with YoungLife at my high school. I went to campaigners, camp, and even volunteered for work crew. In college, I spent a month on summer staff.
My family is also an important part of my life. My sister and I say that we're "best friends for life." Our parents stressed the importance of family, faith, commitment, cooperation, and love. They make a conscious effort to model the type of people we should aspire to be. I look forward to all the time I spend with them.
Here are some more of my favorite photographs:
(1) Square-dancing while on Summer Staff at YoungLife camp, (2) Some of my friends eating ice cream in Westwood, CA, (3) "Extreme Games" activity at Lake Champion.
Blowing out my birthday candles with my sister and cousin's children.
(1) With my friends over summer vacation a few years ago, (2) one of my best friends, (3) sitting in a friend's hammock with my then-boyfriend
On a boat with my father
(1) Out to dinner with friends in MD, (2) last night with the Ropes Course crew at Lake Champion, (3) my roommate Ryan and I, (4) In N Out with friends visiting from high school
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Due to car problem and graduation craziness, today was the first time I was able to attend church since I returned to Los Angeles after the Equality Ride. Bel Air Presbyterian is nestled in the mountains of Mullholland Drive and serves the greater LA region. It has been a fixture of my faith experience at USC. This morning marked the first time I attended as a graduate and the first time I'd been in a church after the ride. It was different not having my fellow riders with me in a church, but very familiar to be back in the church I've gone to for the past three years.
I was happy to be home.
Today's sermon was the first in a series on Mark... "The Gospel of Action." Pastor Mark Brewer spoke about how Mark launched right into Jesus's ministry, how Jesus was active, and specifically how Jesus was "in the business of healing." He looked at Mark 1:40-45 where Jesus heals the paralytic. It was a good sermon on what it really means when Christ shows up in your life. He echoed a sentiment that Mr. McKinnon once shared with me: no one encounters Jesus and remains unchanged. I know that is true for me. Mark often talks of the spiriting driving him (rather than a less emphatic "leading"). Boy have I felt that.
He also pointed out something I don't often think about: "You're going to need Jesus more after the healing than before." Finding the healing power of Jesus is amazing, but it does not come without a responsibility. As the Lord continues to heal, shape, and refine my life, I find myself relying on the Spirit even more.
I was also encouraged by this thought:
You might be laying foundations in business, in ministries, in relationships... that you will never see come to fruition. That might not be your role. Your role might be to lay the groundwork for something great. Your role is to listen to the Lord.I can't wait for next week!
Saturday, May 19, 2007
I've formatted our West bus Equality Ride videos for iPod. You can download them using the links below and then all you have to do is add them to your iTunes Library. They're all ready to go. Thanks to Adam Britt for hosting the files.
University of Notre Dame
Wisconsin Lutheran University
Brigham Young University
Brigham Young University - Idaho
West Bus Photo Slideshow
Friday, May 18, 2007
First of all, I apologize for the severe delay in bringing you this video. It was completed while I was still on the ride but a series of unfortunate events delayed the release. Thanks for sticking with us and continuing to be interested in the Equality Ride.
As a note, Soulforce will be co-sponsoring a New York Marriage Ride this summer from July 14-27. You can visit the site for more information. Soulforce also has an important Ex-Gay Survivors conference coming from June 29 - July 1. Many Soulforce participants have experienced the pain caused by so-called ex-gay therapy. Hopefully this conference can be a place to start the healing process for the countless others who have been victims of anti-gay rhetoric.
And here our video from BYU-I
Thursday, May 17, 2007
I had the opportunity to catchup with outgoing Malibu GLEE president Jamaal Crowley yesterday. He informed me that progress towards making Malibu GLEE into Pepperdine GLEE, complete with school recognition, is going slowly at best. Pepperdine administrators have vowed to keep the conversation going but are uncertain whether GLEE can be recognized. I believe that as this conversation continues, the school will begin to understand that they cannot truly love and support their GLBT students without giving them voice and venue. With official sanction for their group withheld, GLBT Pepeprdine students continue to be second-class students... and even worse, GLBT Christians continue to be second-rate believers.
I was however excited to learn that Jamaal received dozens of emails from queer students--many of them closeted--after our visit. They had seen Jamaal speaking at one of our on-campus events and were so encouraged by his presence and his outreach. This is another way in which Equality Ride has fulfilled its goal of giving GLBT students at schools a voice. The closeted GLBT students who contacted Jamaal now have a person to turn to, a ear who will listen, and a heart who will love and support. It also reinforced the gravity of our present situation. I count myself blessed to have interacted with so many beautiful, faithful, gifted, and passionate individuals at the schools we visited.
At every school I met GLBT students, straight allies, and students willing to honestly consider the issues we presented. But what I often lost sight of were the closeted students, observing from a distance. In a very vague way, I knew they were there. I remember being in the closet myself. I knew that a big part of my personal reason for joining the ride was to witness to them. But they were always that--vague. When Jamaal told me of the outpouring of response he had received it made it all very real. There are closeted GLBT students at these schools and their lives are being changed by our mere presence. I hope that they continue to follow Soulforce and Equality Ride even after we've left. I hope they continue to seek out positive and affirming Christian voices. I hope they continue to draw strength from the LORD who created them--fearfully and wonderfully.
And if they ever decide to step out of the closet, I hope they know they can always talk to us.
Joe Carter posted recently about the potential "deadly trappings" of Evangelicalism over at the evangelical outpost. He points out the fads and superficialities that all-too-often dominate "Christian culture" as the real message of Christ is lost. There is a disparity between message sent and message sent. All I have to say is: AMEN!
Check it out.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
President Jimmy Carter has called upon Congress to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy which bans the open service of gay and lesbian personnel in the US Armed Service. His statement to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Networks is being reported by The Advocate, Yahoo! News, and many other news services.
To read his entire statement, visit www.sldn.org
In his statement to SLDN, Carter said, "'Don't ask, don't tell' is the only law in America today that regulates a group of citizens, then prohibits them from identifying themselves and speaking up on their own behalf. Gay soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are unable to tell their member of Congress or their commander that the policy is an abject failure, and they are living proof because they will face discharge. Those who defend our liberties and freedoms deserve better...
The estimated 65,000 gay men and women who currently are serving our country honorably deserve respect. America has always been a beacon of hope for those who believe in human rights and individual dignity. The brave and dedicated men and women of our armed forces also must benefit from this fundamental ideal."
Use the following official resources to find and contact your voices in Congress about this important matter: Senate / House
It is encouraging to see the voices for equality growing in number and in esteem. I know I personally have not done enough in appealing to my representatives on this and other issues that are important to me. That's one area I'd like to improve in.
What are some other issues facing Congress that are important?
Today another American has passed. Yolanda King, daughter of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. died today. In the wake of Jerry Falwell's passing yesterday, I hope that the legacy of this important life is not overlooked. I am thankful for relentless work in civil and human rights ... truly something worth being remembered for.
Today, fellow Equality Rider Cray Condek passed on a message from Yolanda King. After hearing her speak at the Ohio State University, Cray was able to spend some time talking with her. She had heard of Soulforce and was encouraged to hear of the Equality Ride. She gave this note, to pass along to all of us:
"To the Equality Riders, continue to live the dream! Blessings, Yolanda King"Blessings to you Ms. King. Your family and your friends are in my prayers today.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Soulforce, the Lynchburg, VA-based organization which seeks freedom for LGBT people from political and religious oppression and founded by the Reverend Mel White, friend and former ghost-writer for the Reverend Jerry Falwell, has released a statement on Falwell’s passing (not yet available online, sent via email):
Soulforce Observes the Passing of Rev. Jerry Falwell
Today, the staff and board of directors of Soulforce observe the passing of Rev. Jerry Falwell and offer our sincere condolences to his family, the members of Thomas Road Baptist Church, and the students at Liberty University.
“While Soulforce has a long history of nonviolent direct action at Jerry Falwell Ministries, our adversary was never Jerry Falwell, but rather the misinformation about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people espoused by Falwell and so many others,” said Soulforce Executive Director Jeff Lutes.
Soulforce was founded in October, 1999, when Rev. Dr. Mel White and his partner, Gary Nixon, took 200 delegates to meet with Rev. Falwell and his representatives. The purpose of the meeting was to help end hate speech and violence against sexual minorities. Prior to coming out as a gay man, White ghost wrote two books for Falwell (If I Should Die Before I Wake and Strength for the Journey).
Upon hearing the news of Rev. Falwell’s death, White said “It breaks my heart to think that Jerry died without ever discovering the truth about God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender children. I sincerely hope that one day his school and his church will have a change of heart.”
Soulforce remains committed to changing hearts and minds and ending the political and religious oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
Mel White (center), Jerry Falwell (center), Gary Nixon (right)
The Associate Press reports that Jerry Falwell passed away this morning. The 2006 Equality Ride visited his Liberty University and Soulforce founder and president, Mel White, lives in Lynchburg, VA to be in close proximity. Despite Falwell's historic stance against GLBT-equality, I would like to send my prayers out to Jerry Falwell's family, his students, his friends, and those who knew him. He was a child of God and though he disagreed with including GLBT individuals in the Christian fold, I am truly saddened to hear of his passing. We are all God's children. God bless.
That's all for today.
Eleven students at Gordon College in Massachusetts poured their everything into the newly created student magazine, If I Told You, for a candid glimpse at what it is like to be queer at Gordon. These stories reflect the reality of what it means to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender: that everyone is at a different stage. Some of these students are barely able to love themselves, others are ready to challenge the world to love them fully. There is heartbreak, despair, regret, pride, love, adoration, and faith.
As I read through these stories, one line continues to haunt me.
I won’t find that love in my family, my friends, my school, my church, or some random guy.
That love comes from God and is the only thing I have left to hold on to. Don’t try to take it away from me. You can take away my self-esteem and my dignity; you can kick me out of church and deny me rights; you can physically beat me or call me names; you can laugh at me and you can pity me; but you can never, never take away my God.
Or I will no longer be human.
God bless the GLBT students of Gordon College. May they know in their heart that God loves them and affirms them without reservation.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Negotiations with prospective schools began last October. Some schools welcomed the Riders' diverse perspectives, some set narrow limitations on the Riders' campus access, and others went so far as to ban them from campus.
In the end, the Riders suffered more than 100 trespassing arrests in order to bring a message of hope and justice to every school on both routes.
But while arrests provide one indicator of the Riders' commitment, the Ride's lasting impact at the schools can be measured in other ways:
- Six of the schools on this year's route have new gay-straight alliances.
- An unofficial LGBT support group at Pepperdine University has been granted a new hearing on achieving official group status.
- At Baylor University, students have started a petition asking the institution to review its policy on "homosexual behavior."
- At University of Notre Dame, the gay and lesbian alumni network has called for a boycott on giving to their alma mater.
- Seattle and New York City proclaimed April 11 and April 14, respectively, as the official Soulforce Equality Ride 2007 Day.
- Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, changed its policy during the course of the Equality Ride. The revised policy clarifies that the university will respond to "homosexual behavior rather than to feelings or orientation." The previous policy had proscribed "homosexual behavior, whether implicit or explicit."
At the Riders' "Welcome Home" service in Mankato, Minnesota, the mother of a straight student from Bethany Lutheran College approached Herrin. "As she cried, she told me that she was so disappointed in how they responded by arresting 10 Equality Riders. Her son came home from school that day to tell her he was transferring because he was so disgusted."
"As long as these schools, like Bethany Lutheran, continue to discriminate, they will have to face the consequences. Financially, spiritually and socially, they cannot turn away from the suffering they create," affirmed Herrin.
If you read other Equality Ride blogs (see sidebar below), you may be seeing this pop-up in other places as well. Equality Ride founder and Soulforce Q co-director Jacob Reitan offered up this prayer. It's beautiful and so I will share it with you.
A Prayer for Activists
God, bless me with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that You will live deep in my heart. God, bless me with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people and the earth so that I will work for justice, equity and peace. God bless me with tears to shed for those who suffer so that I will reach out my hand to comfort them and change their pain into joy. God bless me with the foolishness to think that I can make a difference in the world, so that I will do the things which others say cannot be done.
Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
As I was looking up searches that had led to hits on my blog, I found BYU-I College Democrats and their post about the then-upcoming Soulforce visit. The author gives a brief explanation of Soulforce and Equality Ride from his perspective and goes on to give his thoughts on the matter. A rather heated exchanged follows in the Comments section. With the ride behind us, I wanted to throw my voice into the mix... hopefully to better clarify our goals for our visits and to aid in a path towards reconciliation. I'll repost my thoughts here:
As one of the riders from the 2007 Soulforce Equality Ride, I'd like to take a little time to comment on the ride in general and the 2007 visits to BYU-Provo and BYU-I.
I know it's a little bit dated but it came up in a Google search I was running...
I hope that the students of BYU-I had time to speak with the riders as we stood oustide of the school or at BYU-Provo as we walked around it for hours. I'm sure if you did you would see that we neither forced a dialogue with anyone we talked to nor did we ever call a person a bigot. Conversations must be two-sided and all of the conversations that I engaged in were consensual, civil, and mutually enriching--even when I spoke to individuals with views different from my own.
I was raised Protestant Christian but over the course of the ride, spent weeks speaking with our LDS riders about the Church and the faith. It is such a beautiful faith, I wish I had been exposed to it earlier in life. I even procured a Book of Mormon which I have begun to read. The RM that I spent the most time speaking with once called attention to the Holy Ghost witnessing to me as well... it was a surreal experience.
But now I am at a crossroads. I am gay. That is an anthropological fact of my existence. The First Presidency and The Twelve Apostles recognize that sexual orientation is often beyond conscious choice and often cannot be changed. They even recommend against opposite-sex marriage for those individuals who have a homosexual orientation.
So now what do I do? I have been presented with this beautiful faith. A faith with much purpose. A faith founded on family. But a faith that tells me I have no place in it. Where do I go and what do I do?
I have seen what other GLBT Mormons have done. They have tried to change themselves--and they have failed. For every major medical, psychological, and sociological organizations agrees that it is impossible to change one's orientation (and the General Authorities tacitly agree).
I have seen them try to hold down relationships with members of the opposite sex. Hoping for normalcy and to fit into this beautiful theological system. But that is not honest. It is not honest to the partner, to the person, or to God.
I have read statements that say there will be no homosexual desires in the next life and that an individual should do everything in his or her power to avoid "sinful behavior." I have known bright, rational, grounded individuals be gradually driven to either contemplate or attempt suicide because they feel it is their only option. And I have seen that once they make peace with the way Heavenly Father created them, once they find supportive family, friends, and Church members... thoughts of suicide would never enter into their mind. These are not clinically depressed individuals, they are individuals who have been pushed to the edge and who know no other option.
Soulforce and the Equality Ride is sometimes misrepresented by school administrations or the media. I have heard it said that we just want to create a media spectacle to further "our agenda." Our only goal truly is to engage in conversations. That is what we do everywhere go. Look at MidAmerica Nazarene, Pepperdine, Fresno Pacific, George Fox, Seattle Pacific, Northwest, Northwest Nazarene, Dordt, and others. We spent hours and sometimes days in honest, Christ-centered dialogue about who we are as individuals and what we believe in and why. I know that at every school stop where the West Bus was on campus, administrators told us that they were happy to have us and that while we disagree, the conversations were mutually enriching. I would second that opinion. We can still learn from one another and grow to understand one another better.
In places like Provo, Rexburg, Billings, and Ellendale where the schools would not let us on campus, we had conversations nonetheless. I attended a student discussion group in Provo with over 75 BYU students present. We hosted dinner conversations and picnics in parks. We talked in restaurants, coffee shops, and on street corners. We listened and we learned.
At each stop I learned so much about the denominations of the school and of the individuals in attendance. I took away so much from the past two months, from every encounter that I had, and I'd like to think that I made an impression on at least a few people along the way.
Change happens. In society, slavery was abolished and so was segregation. In the LDS faith, blacks were allowed to enter the priesthood and plural marriage came to an end. Only the Prophet has the power to enact sweeping change but in the meantime, we are allowed to talk about it. There was discussion about blacks in the priesthood long before the change took place. Learning more about our GLBT brothers and sisters is not sinful, nay it is necessary. Nor does engaging in this conversation mean we must abandon our beliefs. Just because change happened in the past, doesn't mean it will happen in the future. Even if no one ever changes their attitudes (which, is entirely a person's right), conversation and growing understanding will still be beneficial. We are all Heavenly Father's children...I can't imagine Jesus not wanting to know us better!
I understand that we are all imperfect humans and thus sometimes people react in less then Christ-like ways when they find out someone is gay, but only through openly and candidly addressing these issues can we hope for improvement.
It was my honest desire at every stop not to change anyone's mind but to learn more about them and tell them more about myself. To hear about their faith journey and to share my own. Four GLBT youths take their life every day, this is something we need to talk about.
I hope if the Equality Ride returns to BYU-I next year you will take some time out of your schedule to go speak with them. I think you'd find we have much in common. And if not, feel free to email us. I would be happy to talk with you or put you in contact with one of our LDS riders.
This is an issue that is dividing the country and ripping families a part. I would like to be a part of the solution and I would like you to be as well. And I think that the first step is talking to one another. That's all I'm asking.
Looking back, I worry that I did not adequately answer the blogger's question, "What are they trying to do?" Or maybe, why are we trying to do this. BYU-I (and other colleges we visit) may not actively "teach homophobia" or hold anti-gay rallies, but the policies they hold and the positions they espouse regarding sexual orientation marginalize, silence, and relegate GLBT members of the faith. This is spiritually, emotionally, and psychological damaging to the individual. It is also my belief that is damaging to God's community on Earth. We come to these schools to bring a different perspective. A perspective that affirms individuals who happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. We come to speak about our experiences as GLBT individuals and as believers. We come to support those students who are suffering in silence on these campuses. We come to be present, to be witnesses. We come because these beliefs are causing mothers to wish death upon their sons, causing sisters to leave the faith, causing loved ones to kill themselves.
We come because this conversation is too important not to have.
Many months ago, I added The Point to my Google Reader. I believe there was a post about the 2007 Soulforce Equality Ride which caught my initial attention and then interesting and engaging posts afterwards to hold it. As a (relatively) conservative Christian blog, there are often points or issues with which I disagree--both from the bloggers and the commentators--but it continues to be an interesting and often enlightening read nonetheless. I would suggest you check it out and get involved with the discussions!
Yesterday, I read this post about Nick Vujicic, who I had the opportunity to hear speak at my church, Bel Air Presbyterian in February. Nick was born with no arms or legs and only a semblance of one foot. Nick moves and even swims with ease and grace. I can't imagine it is easy, but he makes it look effortless. At the end of the short post, blogger Zoe Sandvig raises the issue of abortion, specifically related "deformed fetuses". The other stories she linked to were equally moving. I am thrilled to see the human spirit and the Holy Spirit working in tandem in the lives of these outstanding individuals. I'm also thankfully for the inspirations these people give to others and the witness they provide. What a great testament to the human ability to overcome adversity! (I'm a little nervous at the potential to overgeneralize, over-politicize, and overemphasize these individuals' stories ... but that's something else)
Today, I read another post, Working at Works, by T.M. Moore. I suddenly felt like I was back on Equality Ride (I'm not sure Moore wasn't expecting that!). We can never forget the call to love and to serve. The Christian faith should not be an idle faith, but an active one. Jesus was constantly in motion. 1 John 3:18, a verse which I quoted often on the road, came to mind. I decided to post this comment:
I hope that it will spark some conversation and introspection, both online and in churches and communities around the country. In every place it can, this conversation must continue.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
I sit in my own apartment, in Los Angeles, California. I am no longer in a crowded room of people. I no longer call a bus my home. Tonight I will sleep completely alone, tomorrow I will not have any responsibilities.
I remember the day I first read the Equality Ride website: I sat in my parent's house, on my childhood bed and thought "I could do this." I wasn't sure if I would or if I should... but I did. And it has made all the difference. I look back at that person and it is just a dull reflection of who I am today. 53 amazing individuals have shaped and reformed me into something more brilluant than I could have ever planned. I look back at the past two months, remembering all that has happened, and I know that I have not even begun to fully process the experience.
I remember being barred from University of Notre Dame property for life
I remember being told "Get thee behind me Satan" by a pastor
I remember suicides ignored
I remember students silenced
I remember long days
I remember fruitful conversations
I remember presentations and class visits
I remember hot meals
I remember cold faces
I remember standing ovations
I remember accusations of "disordered"
I remember "abuse" "pedophile" "drug addict" "alcoholism" "addictions" "promiscuity" "depression"
I remember many "thank-yous"
I remember too many goodbyes
I remember "The opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality, the opposite of homosexuality is holiness"
I remember late night, early mornings, and the desire to do it all over again
I remember fences
I remember "Keep out" signs
I remember the wind and the rain and the cold
I remember God
I remember living.