Guest commentary: Shift in progress

[Ed. Note — Paul McNeal has a great guest contribution below. I’m encouraging him to become a regular contributor. I’m sure you’ll like his stuff and hope you encourage him to join the club, too! — Matt]

“When I am president of the United States, Gays and Lesbians will have somebody who will fight for equal rights for them, because they are our brothers, and they are our sisters…” — Barack Obama

In this video, Barack Obama eloquently discusses his vision for a United States of America. Growing up in a socially conservative environment, it was a struggle to talk about my feelings and emotions as a Gay Christian. To take it a couple of steps further, a Gay African American Military Christian Man –- try that one on for size. (smile)

What I am starting to notice, since my departure from the military (2001) is a cultural shift. I would call it an awakening but we have not really been asleep on the issues I will discuss, it’s actually been in discussion for quite some time.

President-Elect Obama, has done a lot to help continue pushing the thought of an open and honest society when it comes to the LGBT community. Just yesterday Bob Barr, the author of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) came out and said that Obama was right and the law needs to be repealed.

Paul McNeal

Paul McNeal

On June 13, 2007, Barr also said that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy should be repealed as well. What is causing this shift in thinking? One day folks were legislating against the LGBT community and now some 15 years later those same people are calling for the repeal of the very same laws?

It is not only Barr who appears to have this shifting mindset. Ellen Tauscher who succeeded Marty Meehan as the lead sponsor of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act (H.R. 1246) — which calls for the repeal of DADT — is joined by 127 other lawmakers (bi-partisan) who want to see the anti-gay military policy done away with. In November 2007, retired generals and admirals also stepped up and said repeal the law. And the straw that breaks the camels back: Retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell is now on record, saying it is time to review DADT law.

This shifting mindset is not only limited to the political arena, but I am seeing it in our churches. Growing up, I would have been hard pressed to find a church that let alone accepted gays, but would even broach the topic. Now, it is talked about regularly and without as much hesitation or fear. Barna Research Group, conducted a survey in which they found that 80 percent of those polled between the ages of 16 and 29 are looking for ways to love their gay friends and they are asking the church pastors for guidance on this issue. Soulforce visited several churches in 2007 in order to have a conversation about homosexuality and the Bible; Willow Creek was one of the first to accept and dialogue open and honestly with the team that visited. Gay dads celebrated Father’s Day at Saddleback as a part of the Soulforce Family Outings. While this is a far cry from acceptance from the church, it is a heck of a lot different than I would have seen 15 years ago.

What is causing this shift? Is it a generational thing? I can definitely say that the younger generation is more understanding about issues like race, sex, and religion. Could it be time? I am a true believer in that the more time you have the better decision you can make, because more evidence can be found. Look for example at how many people said the world was flat? Really? Hmm, I think it’s round. People debated this issue fiercely and how wrong were they? Or was it, they just didn’t have enough time -– as they say, it ain’t over til the fat lady sings.

LGBT people should be afforded the equal right to live their lives free from discrimination, harassment, abuse and fear. With this freedom comes responsibility to live by a code that is conducive to a healthy and productive living. It should be our desire to harm no other person and to only bring good to the community in which we live. May each of us, do our best to represent the LGBT community by reaching out and across social boundaries to befriend and be befriended by those who are not like us to show that we are people too and not just a statistic on a poll somewhere. We have lives, too.

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