A counter-protester holds a sign near anti-gay protesters at Charlotte Pride, Aug. 24, 2013, Uptown Charlotte. Photo Credit: Matthew Cummings/StillOut Photography Club.

Three weeks ago, Dr. Michael Brown, a leading anti-LGBT activist and religious leader in Charlotte brought 40 of his ministry schools’ students and other friends to Charlotte Pride, the city’s annual LGBT Pride festival and parade, on whose board of directors I sit. While at the event, Brown’s students and others circulated the festival area, speaking to attendees and asking attendees to complete a survey entitled, “Are You Open Minded?”

I took offense to Brown’s outreach efforts this year, calling his tactics dishonest, underhanded and deceitful. I even appeared on Brown’s radio show on Sept. 3 to discuss my disagreements with his survey and tactics. I discuss more about that experience in my latest editorial in the current issue of QNotes, hitting newsstands and online today. In the editorial, I call Brown’s outreach efforts this year a “spectacular failure.” You can read more about why in the editorial.

Here, though, I’ll run through and answer the several questions Dr. Brown’s students posed to Charlotte Pride attendees. Brown and I had meant to answer a few of these questions together on his radio show. Unfortunately, we ran out of time. Here though, I hope I’ll be able to offer a more balanced view and some more informed answers and insight I thought was missing from Brown’s Aug. 26 radio discussion of the survey results.

First, all the questions (src):

  1. 1. Do you agree with the statement “I have the right to marry the one I love”?
    Yes No
    If so, are there any exceptions? (Polyamory? Polygamy? Consensual adult incest [opposite sex? same-sex?]? Age of consent for marriage?)
    Yes No
  2. If same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land, should religious exemptions be allowed for those who do not want to participate?
    Yes No
    If so, does that apply to churches? Businesses? Individuals?
    If not, what should the penalty be (for churches, businesses, individuals)?
  3. If someone is not happy with their gender, should they be allowed to pursue a change of gender?
    Yes No
    If they are not happy with their sexual orientation, should they be allowed to pursue a change of their sexual orientation?
    Yes No
    If so, should they have to wait until they reach a certain age?
  4. If you could snap your fingers and change your sexual orientation or gender, would you?
    Yes No
  5. Is it bigoted to believe that homosexual practice is sin?
    Yes No
  6. Is it bigoted to say there is only one way to God?
    Yes No
  7. How would you characterize yourself?
    Male Female Other
    Gay Straight Bi Trans Other

And my answers:

Do you agree with the statement “I have the right to marry the one I love”?

Yes.

If so, are there any exceptions? (Polyamory? Polygamy? Consensual adult incest [opposite sex? same-sex?]? Age of consent for marriage?) 

Yes. All people should be able to marry the person they love, but there are common-sense restrictions, mostly protecting possible victims from abuse. Such is the case with age of consent laws and laws forbidding incest. Family law, however, should also recognize that not all families are the same; families with multiple unmarried parenting partners deserve the same or similar protections for their and their children’s well-being that couples receive. Such families may, indeed, be polyamorous, but many others are commonplace, including single parents who depend upon relatives or friends for co-parenting. Marriage alone should not be the gateway through which we determine who is entitled to the legal and social means to protect their families and the interests of their children.

If same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land, should religious exemptions be allowed for those who do not want to participate?

A simple “yes”-or-“no” option to this question is misleading and doesn’t provide for a full context needed for an answer. Brown’s survey provided follow-up questions where this context can be explored. See below.

 If so, does that apply to churches? Businesses? Individuals?

CHURCHES: Religious exemptions regarding marriage and any other religious sacrament or rite are already woven into the fabric of U.S. law. This nation, unlike others (as is the case in England), has no established church body entangled with government, and, as such, no government agency or official can force a minister or person of faith to conduct any marriage. Any pastor or officiant has the right to refuse to perform, conduct or participate in a marriage ceremony. In fact, many pastors require couples to meet certain criteria (e.g., faith requirements, church membership, couples/pastoral counseling, etc.) before they will agree to perform the ceremony.

BUSINESSES: For the most part, statutory and case law on business discrimination is largely settled. Federal and state laws prohibit discrimination in public accommodations. Specifically, the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides all people the “full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.” Elsewhere, the act states that all people are “entitled to be free, at any establishment or place, from discrimination or segregation of any kind on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin…” In many states, these laws have been extended beyond public accommodations (hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, etc.) to apply to all businesses operating in the public and to protect other characteristics like sexual orientation or gender identity. In one particular New Mexico case, a photographer lost a lawsuit after she refused to photograph a same-sex couple’s wedding. Salon’s Mark Joseph Stern writes: “Legally, this ruling was correct; the photographer offered her skills solely as a business service, not as a form of personal expression. It’s the equivalent of a taxi refusing to pick up a gay couple, or a restaurant refusing to serve a gay family.” Courts have ruled that constitutional interests of fair treatment and equal access outweighs an individual right to discrimination. The reasons for such laws are clear: (1) Arbitrary discrimination, or discrimination for the sake of discrimination alone, does not represent a legitimate business interest, and (2) Government has a legitimate interest in proscribing arbitrary discrimination in the offering of goods and services, primarily in protection of free commerce and trade and the protection of individuals who may be adversely affected by mass discrimination. Can you imagine what the U.S. would look like today if private businesses had been able to continue refusing services to people of color? The same “religious liberty” arguments being used by opponents of LGBT equality today are eerily similar to many arguments used by racist business owners in the past. As the racist arguments of times past sound ridiculously hateful, silly and arbitrary today, so, too, will arguments in favor of anti-LGBT discrimination sound as equally hateful, silly and arbitrary in the years and decades to come.

[As an aside: Brown has asked if laws prohibiting discrimination by businesses would apply to a gay business owner who is asked to provide a service for an organization espousing beliefs with which she disagrees. The simple answer is yes. However, all business owners are free to refuse service for a variety of reasons which are not unlawful or arbitrary. Among those circumstances, one stands out: Businesses are free to refuse service when a customer may harass or intimidate employees or other customers. So, should a gay owner of a T-shirt business refuse service to a church which seeks to have T-shirts printed with the text of John 3:16? Most likely, no. But, should the gay owner be allowed to refuse service when the Scripture in question is calling for their death, such as Leviticus 20:13? Most definitely, yes.]

[Second aside: Many of the most recent cases regarding anti-gay business discrimination centers around marriage equality. Businesses have included wedding photographers, flower shops and bakeries. Each have claimed their religious belief that same-sex marriage is sinful prevents them from providing the service. I find such arguments from “Christian” business owners hypocritical unless they can also prove they have queried each and every past customer on their sexual practices and beliefs; for example, has the business owner provided a cake, photography or flowers for a couple who are not virgins and who have had sex before marriage, or have they provided services for a couple which intends to engage in an open, non-monogamous relationship after marrying? The only difference between these scenarios and the gay couple’s scenario is that the business owner is aware of the gay couple’s sexual orientation; the business owner may not have been aware of another couple’s actions, which they may believe to be “sin,” but they have still, even unwittingly, participated in a “celebration” of it. You might say that one can’t “unwittingly” or unintentionally be a hypocrite, and I’d agree. But, the fact that a business owner holds on to such cherished beliefs — so cherished that it prevents them from providing services to an entire class of people — and, yet, does nothing to see that such beliefs are not applied equally and fairly to all of their customers, is, without a doubt, hypocritical.]

INDIVIDUALS: Individuals are free to associate with whomever they wish. No law can force an individual to visit a particular retail establishment, stay at a particular hotel or eat at a particular restaurant. Similarly, no law can force an individual to join an organization. Constitutional rights to freedom of association and expression apply. This particular “individual harm” argument is a red herring.

If not, what should the penalty be (for churches, businesses, individuals)?

CHURCHES: Exemptions for religious institutions are already represented in most law. Next.

BUSINESSES: Most public accommodations and commercial non-discrimination laws and ordinances apply civil penalties to unlawful discriminatory practices. Civil penalties should be fair and equitable, as a faithful reliance on justice requires; it’s cliche, but it’s true: “The punishment should fit the crime.”

INDIVIDUALS: No issue here. Individuals are free to associate with whomever they wish. Next.

If someone is not happy with their gender, should they be allowed to pursue a change of gender? If they are not happy with their sexual orientation, should they be allowed to pursue a change of their sexual orientation?

Again, simple “yes”-or-“no” option for this pair of questions doesn’t give it full justice. But, simply and quickly, yes. See more below.

GENDER: Yes. The experiences of transgender and other gender-variant people are well-established medical, scientific and psychological phenomena. Book closed.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION: Yes, which, at first glance, may seem radical to some in the LGBT community. Though I do not personally believe sexual orientation is changeable (and most all legitimate medical, scientific and psychological literature agrees), I see no valid, legal reason to prohibit an individual from seeking to live life the way they see fit. It’s a complicated answer, I recognize. It also includes a great many questions on the veracity of claims made by “ex-gay” “therapists,” the efficacy of such “therapies” and the many ethical questions involved, especially among the many “ex-gay” therapists and groups which have been found to engage in unorthodox and potentially harmful therapeutic techniques, have failed to fully inform their clients of the body of medical and psychological research, literature and expectations on the topic, practice personal, religious intimidation and, at times, have been found to engage in sexual exploitation and abuse (here’s a good example).

If so, should they have to wait until they reach a certain age?

Again, “yes”-or-“no” won’t cut it. See below.

GENDER: Call me a radical if you wish, but I happen to believe that children are far smarter and have far more insight into their own personhood than adults often give them credit. This recent story about a young boy who personally enjoys more feminine clothing, toys and other items is a perfect example of a young person who knows his gender as he perceives it now but who is allowed by his parents to exhibit a perfectly healthy and, what should be, perfectly normal affinity for items not traditionally interpreted as “masculine.” Parents of children with gender-identity issues should consult with their physicians and with psychologists to determine the best course of action for their young people. I, for one, am not a medical expert, and, so, I won’t pretend to be. But, I’d imagine it’d be most healthy that gender affirmation surgery be considered in a young person’s later adolescent years, following puberty.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION: As “ex-gay” “therapies” have been shown repeatedly to be potentially harmful and abusive to young people, and as the medical, scientific and psychological literature is clear that sexual orientation is a mostly-immutable characteristic, such “therapies” should not be open to minors. No parent should be allowed to forcefully change their child’s sexual orientation; these are decisions for an individual to make. I support laws that prohibit the use of “ex-gay” and “reparative” “therapies” on minors.

If you could snap your fingers and change your sexual orientation or gender, would you?

Absolutely not. I am who I am today because of the unique life experiences I have encountered, many of which would not have been without my identifying as gay. There was a time when I might have answered yes, especially when I was younger and subjected to near-daily and sometimes brutal verbal and physical harassment. It’s shameful that our culture bullies young people into hating who they are.

Is it bigoted to believe that homosexual practice is sin?

Very simply, yes.

Is it bigoted to say there is only one way to God?

Bigoted? Depends, I guess, on how you apply it. I believe I have chosen a path — the one, true path for me — that leads me to reconciliation with God. It should come as no surprise to any rational person that another’s journey toward and understanding of God may differ wildly from mine or any other person’s. Is that bigoted? No, I don’t think so. But, if you’re one who thinks you can speak for God and eternally condemn, carte blanche, an entire group of people simply because you personally disagree with them, yeah, that’s a little bit bigoted. If you use such a condemnatory personal belief to legislate against entire groups of people, well, yeah, that’s extremely bigoted, and nothing short of theocracy.

How would you characterize yourself?

Gay. Male.

Very grateful to have had the opportunity to travel from Charlotte up to Newton, N.C., for the protest of Providence Baptist Church (Maiden, N.C.) Pastor Charles Worley and to also report from the scene for QNotes

Over 1,000 gather in Newton to protest anti-gay preacher’s comments
Peaceful protest draws raucous counter protesters

Protesters and anti-LGBT counter protesters engaged in heated debate at Sunday’s event. Photo Credit: QNotes/Matt Comer.

Newton, N.C. — Over 1,000 people gathered in this small town about an hour outside Charlotte on Sunday to protest what they called messages of hate by Maiden, N.C. Pastor Charles Worley, whose comments at Providence Road Baptist Church during a sermon on May 13 made headlines last week.

Worley said he had “figured a way out – a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers.”

“Build a great big, large fence — 50 or a 100 miles long — and put all the lesbians in there,” Worley told his congregants. “Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals — and have that fence electrified so they can’t get out. Feed ‘em. And you know in a few years, they’ll die out. You know why? They can’t reproduce.”

Comments from a 1978 sermon by Worley also raised eyebrows. Posted by the church, the old sermon included comments from Worley that “Forty years ago they would’ve hung [homosexuals], bless God, from a white oak tree!”

Organizers had told media they were expecting 2,000-5,000 protesters, which prompted them to move from their original protest location at Worley’s church to the Catawba County Government and Justice Center. Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid told qnotes that he estimated attendance at anywhere from 1,400-1,600. He said every spot in the government center parking lot had at one time been filled. The lot holds 675 cars, Reid said, noting that many vehicles had come with at least two passengers.

Read the rest of the story and view photos and video at goqnotes.com…

Yet another update on the Maiden, N.C., Providence Road Baptist Church, whose pastor, Charles “Concentration Camp” Worley, has come under scrutiny for his proposal to send LGBT people to Nazi-like concentration camps and his 1978 sermon blessing the hanging of gays.

A mutual friend on Facebook posted a screenshot of a review of the church he found on the church’s overview on Google. The review reads almost too outlandish to believe.

It it legit? Is it a satire? My first impression was the latter, but I’m concerned it could be real for several reasons.

I’ll explain. First, the review (my emphasis added):

TheRodofGod – today – 5 stars
I started attending this church a few months ago and believe me when I say it is absolutely a blessing. It is so nice to be among like minded individuals who praise the time honored traditions of racial and sexual purity. Pastor Worley speaks an abundance of truth and realizes the need for a final solution to our country’s troubled present. He preaches the truth that modern day Zionist media refuses to acknowledge. Providence isn’t some bobble-head ditto chamber either, we all agree that the good days are behind us and only torment await if we continue to travel the road we’re one. I will continue to pray for days when the racially impure do the menial tasks us deserving and god-chosen southerners are breaking our backs at. The dandies should stop choosing sin and the ladies would be much happier if they could just embrace their dependence on the masculine men in society.

Crazy, right? When I first read it, I thought so too. “There’s no way,” I told myself, “that anyone believes this.” And, the username — “TheRodofGod” — just has to be a joke. Plus, the user has only one activity on Google’s network — this one comment — according to the public profile.

Yet, stopping to consider the source, a church whose pastor has preached murder of LGBT people for at least 40 years, and one might be cautious before ignoring these new comments outright. 

Continue reading this post…

Pastor Charles 'Concentration Camp' Worley wants to 'get rid of all the lesbians and queers.'

This update on Maiden, N.C., Providence Road Baptist Church Pastor Charles “Concentration Camp” Worley from GoodAsYou.org’s Jeremy Hooper, who found an old sermon archived at SermonAudio from Worley given on April 30, 1978, two years after he started preaching at the church.

Listen to the clip below:

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I’m God’s preacher. I just believe the book. We’re living in a day when, you know what, it saddens my heart to think that homosexuals can go around, bless God, and get the applause of a lot people, lesbians and all the rest of it. Bless God! Forty years ago they would’ve hung [homosexuals], bless God, from a white oak tree! Wouldn’t they?! Amen!

Hooper notes: “The truly remarkable thing? Of all of his old sermons, *this* is one that someone at his church felt worthy of posting to the Internet for posterity’s sake.”

See earlier posts:
Amendment One’s saving grace: Exposing religious violence against LGBT people
Matt on CBS Radio: No place for pastor’s words in civilized society

Today’s CBS News report on Maiden, N.C., Pastor Charles Worley, as broadcast at 1 p.m. as broadcast at CBS Radio online and syndicated nationally.

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See earlier post: “Amendment One’s saving grace: Exposing religious violence against LGBT people”

[Update (May 22, 2012, 2:03 p.m.): Hear the CBS News radio report with Matt’s remarks on Pastor Charles Worley’s comments.]

Just two weeks ago, voters in North Carolina approved 61 to 39 percent a discriminatory, anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment banning marriage and civil unions for same-sex couples and threatening domestic partner protections for all couples.

The primary election came on the heels of a months-long campaign — proponents and opponents airing their positions on TV, radio, in newspaper ads, at community events and at doorsteps and on sidewalks across the state. The campaign was a torturous one, with dangerous, anti-LGBT rhetoric swirling around the state and stoking the fires of hate and bigotry.

Pastor Charles 'Concentration Camp' Worley wants to 'get rid of all the lesbians and queers.'

And, though the LGBT community and its allies lost their campaign at the ballot box, the campaigns on Amendment One might very well provide some bit of silver lining: Now, more than ever, the pure bigotry and hate of those who would seek to discriminate against LGBT people has been exposed.

First, it was Pleasant Garden Baptist Church Pastor Michael “Nuclear Holocaust” Barrett, who claimed in a sermon claimed that legalized marriage for same-sex couples will be like a “nuclear holocaust.”

Then, it was Fayetteville, N.C. Pastor Sean “Crack a Wrist” Harris, who in a sermon encouraged fathers to crack the “limp wrists” of their gay sons and “give ’em a good punch.”

Now, yet another Baptist pastor has been found speaking violence from the pulpit. In Maiden, N.C., Providence Road Baptist Church Pastor Charles Worley said he had “figured a way out – a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers.”

Build a great big, large fence — 50 or a 100 miles long — and put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals — and have that fence electrified so they can’t get out. Feed ’em. And you know in a few years, they’ll die out. You know why? They can’t reproduce.

The campaign over Amendment One — in which LGBT people were demonized, scapegoated and, ultimately, ostracized and legally cast aside — has emboldened those who would seek to use the holy name of God to perpetrate violence against us. And, because of those campaigns, such rhetoric is being exposed to the light, and that light will burn it out.

Religiously-motivated violence against LGBT people is nothing new. Desiring for the mass murder of all LGBT people, as shocking as it might sound to many even in our own community, is an old wish — one, as evidenced by Worley, that still exists today. I’ve known such a desire exists for a long time. As a child, my hometown pastor preached violence against LGBT people regularly. “Put all the queers on a ship,” he’d say, “Pluck a hole into the side of it and send it out to sea.” He used similar metaphors as Worley, wishing to pen in all “the queers” in two states until “they die out.” (See: “An awkward ‘homecoming'” and “An awkward ‘homecoming’ – Part Two”)

Dr. Michael Brown, one of Charlotte’s most radical anti-LGBT activists and known associate of those who encourage mass murder, has also similar violent metaphors, using inflammatory rhetoric that suggests a life-or-death struggle and conflict over gay and lesbian issues and people and calling his movement a “battle” and “holy war.” He once told me he abhorred such real violence and “would be the first” to step up to defend me or any person subject to violence. (See full special report, “On the edge: Religious militancy in the Queen City”)

Dr. Brown — and all those others who feign sympathy with LGBT people — here is your chance. Now is your time to stand up, cast aside your bigotry and hate and come to the aid of those people who are clearly under attack.

Charles Worley’s comments are shocking and terrifying. Calling for violence against and mass murder of minorities is inexcusable. My heart aches for any of the LGBT young people in Worley’s congregation forced to listen to this message of hate and violence. Physical, emotional, verbal and spiritual violence against any person has no place in civilized society. History has taught us that there can be a very thin line between religiously-inspired violent rhetoric and real calls to physical violence. This pastor and others propose sending LGBT people to Nazi-like concentration camps and doing real physical violence to us.

Worley owes no less than an immediate and forthright retraction of his comments and an apology to the LGBT community, and he should take steps to meet with LGBT community members to better understand and respect our human dignity.

Those who would continue to demean and threaten LGBT people should take a long, hard look at what they really believe, cast aside their hate and stand with LGBT people in our fight for the right to simply be, to be safe from harm and fear, to be recognized as full and equal members of society and law.

As for us LGBT folks, now is our time to stand up for ourselves. We’ve done it for months on end. Many of us have done it for our whole lives. But we cannot give up now. Now, more than ever, we must not let our momentum for change fade away. In nonviolence of thought, word and deed, we must stand up. We must seek equality. We must seek understanding, respect and reconciliation. We must work toward a greater world where all people — LGBT people and, yes, even folks like anti-gay pastors — are treated with equality and dignity, a world where no person is threatened with violence or death. A world where all God’s children can live in healthy, loving homes, families, churches, schools and communities.

This is our calling. This is our moment in time. This is our moral obligation. Will you stand up?

Protest: Providence Road Baptist ChurchRSVP on Facebook
Sunday, May 27 at 10:00am at 3283 Providence Mill Rd, Maiden, NC 28650

The following was prompted, in part, by Republican Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James’ Sunday tweet in which he shared a recent message from the pastor of Charlotte’s Calvary Church. In it, the pastor said, “God’s Plan is to Vote Yes [on Amendment One].” James’ tweet and the pastor’s message was the final impetus that led to this message – this public “talking to myself” – that follows below, as these thoughts have been swirling in my mind for months.

From the artist: 'I chose the word FAGGOT because today, gays are socially-acceptable and religiously-justifiable targets for hate. And, just like gays, Jesus was made a hate target in his time because he dared to be different, to tell his understanding of the truth even though his words and his position defied the religious establishment.'

As a person who grew up in the fundamentalist and evangelical Baptist faith, I’ve always felt a connection with those with whom I disagree on many matters of theology and doctrine, especially as it relates to sexuality. While my own faith has grown in different ways, I still identify as a Baptist and, in many ways, still proclaim that old evangelical faith of my childhood and of my ancestors. Even in the face my personal growth in faith, however, I’ve always been able to maintain some semblance of respect – some feeling of Christian brother- and sisterhood – with those who find themselves on the other side of the divide in our Christian family on homosexuality and matters of civic, social and religious equality for LGBT people.

Jeremy Hooper of GoodAsYou.org, among others, has been doing amazing work documenting the vitriol from religious right leaders in North Carolina during the debate over our proposed anti-LGBT constitutional amendment. I’ve been surfing over to his blog many times to see his latest updates. It’s important work, and the words and statements Hooper documents need to be preserved for posterity, thereby enabling future generations to learn from the painful mistakes of their elders today. But, while reading the comments and statements Hooper shares, it has become increasingly more difficult for me to reconcile – to continue living in some spirit of Christian fellowship – with people who would see me and my life ostracized, marginalized and criminalized – some, even, to the point of physical abuse and, dare they say it, death.

I once firmly believed, despite the theological and doctrinal gap between us, that some sort of reconciliation and mutual respect was possible – that even among intense debate over the meaning of Scripture and the nature of the divine, those more fundamentalist or evangelical Christians and I could still manage to live, work, speak, love and act with true Christian grace and humility.

After months of incredibly incendiary and hateful debate, I fear such a notion was mere naïveté. The hate-filled words and actions of those I consider my brothers and sisters are pushing me away from – not drawing me closer toward – our God and our spiritual family. Whatever became of, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35)?

How can I respect and love – much less expect it returned from – a person who believes it’s okay to punch a young gay boy or “crack” his “limp” wrist, as a Fayetteville, N.C., pastor told his congregation? How can I respect and love – much less expect it returned from – a person who believes that by me living life openly and honestly and expecting dignity and equality in return that I somehow have “signed America’s death warrant” and opened the doors to legalized pedophilia and bestiality? How can I respect and love – much less expect it returned from – a person who believes the government should jail or fine me for expressing my love toward another person? How can I respect and love – much less expect it returned from – a person who believes I and any future lifelong partner of mine and our family aren’t deserving of the same medical and legal benefits as my straight family members and friends and their families?

Of course, the list goes on and on.

In church yesterday, as our congregation celebrated this fifth Sunday of Easter, my pastor spoke of “doubting Thomas,” and the rightful place doubts and honest questions should have in a healthy, growing faith. It was a message, I think, I was meant to hear, for my doubts and questions have only grown since the beginning of this maddening and sickening debate in North Carolina.

How can so many of God’s children use God’s name in promoting division, prejudice, mean-spiritedness and hatred when the gospel I know speaks only of unity, fellowship, kindness and love? How can I reconcile my contempt for words of malice with Christ’s commandment to love one another as he loved us? How can I continue believing in the oneness of the body of Christ, yet be faced with the very stark reality that so many of my fellow Christians wish me cast out, placed aside and left behind?

My pastor’s message was prompted, of course, by John’s account of Thomas’ doubtful nature. But, it was the accompanying epistle reading, perhaps, that related so plainly to my own questions (emphasis added):

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:21-24, NRSV)

In thinking through my questions, I was also reminded of those old, familiar words from Ecclesiastes:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. (3:1, NRSV)

As well as (once more, emphasis added):

Moreover I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, wickedness was there, and in the place of righteousness, wickedness was there as well. I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for he has appointed a time for every matter, and for every work. (3:16-17, NRSV)

I can’t and won’t claim to have the answers I seek, but I think I’m heading in the right direction. I’ve always believed that many a well-meaning Christian have simply no real knowledge or awareness of the pain they cause in the lives of LGBT people. I’ve known too many good and kind-hearted people who fit this description – too many, dear friends and family included, who simply heed the misguided teachings and proclamations of their chosen religious leaders. These people would never intentionally hurt anyone and many have simply never had the opportunity to meet or speak with an LGBT person, much less the opportunity to learn how to love and include them unconditionally.

It isn’t my place to judge them. It isn’t my place to lash out with anger. It isn’t my place to threaten retribution. Instead, it is my place, as Christ commanded, to love and to teach, to live in kindness and charity. It’s a hard place to live in – difficult to practice love and fellowship when I know it might very well remain unrequited. Surely, it’s far more difficult than the easier path giving way to anger, frustration and bitterness. But, no one said it would be easy: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me,” Christ said (Luke 9:23, NRSV).

I am comforted knowing that history, no doubt guided by the hand of divine justice, falls squarely on the side of the oppressed:

The LORD works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed (Psalm 103:6, NRSV).

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19, NRSV).

In time, just as many did following the abominable era of slavery, the shameful mistreatment of women and the tumultuous days of Jim Crow and segregation, my fellow Christians who would seek to strip away my rights, my dignity and my humanity, will come to understand the errors of their ways. They will look back in shock; they will wonder why they said what they said, why they promoted division and hatred, why they voted to harm others. They will tell their children and grandchildren of the time when the world was a more hostile, less welcoming place. They will impart wisdom, borne from a personal experience wherein they themselves inflicted pain on others and learned lessons only that may teach. And, humanity will be better and stronger for it.

At least, that’s what I hope – even if doubt beckons me in the opposition direction.

No matter the outcome of North Carolina’s vote on Tuesday, I trust that our current struggle will not be in vain. I trust that some greater meaning and purpose is handed down in a lesson from which we can all learn better how to love one another and live in true Christian fellowship that celebrates, rather than takes insidious advantage of, our disagreements and differences.

The photograph used in this commentary is entitled “The Crucifixion of Christ,” a painting by artist Becki Jayne Harrelson, copyright © 1993. I encourage you to visit her website, peruse her other works and support her own, unique ministry.

I’ve had great respect for Billy Graham in my life thus far. That ends today. According to the Vote For Marriage NC coalition and The Charlotte Observer, Rev. Billy Graham has endorsed the anti-LGBT, anti-children, anti-family and anti-business constitutional amendment on the North Carolina May 8 ballot.

“At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage,” the national religious leader says. “The Bible is clear — God’s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. I want to urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote FOR the marriage amendment on Tuesday, May 8.”

The flier is below.

It’s all too bad really. For such a respected man at the end of his life, this is how he decides to take a bow? More than likely, he’ll not live long enough to see his name drug through the mud as history turns its eye back on his bigotry with shameful judgment. Unlike George Wallace, Billy Graham will be able to offer no retraction or apology. Perhaps, he’ll be able to explain his support of a hateful and discriminatory measure attacking the “least of these” to God.

Pastor Michael 'Nuclear Holocaust' Barrett of Pleasant Garden Baptist Church

A short YouTube video released today contains portions of a sermon delivered by a North Carolina pastor, in which the leader says legalized marriage for same-sex couples will be like a “nuclear holocaust.”

Independent filmmaker Eric Preston compiled the video and titled it “LIES About Amendment One.” The video contains with excerpts from an April 1, 2012, sermon by Pleasant Garden Baptist Church Senior Pastor Michael Barrett entitled, “Marriage: God’s Design.” Preston says Barrett lied to his congregants about the details and impact of Amendment One, the anti-LGBT, anti-family and anti-business state constitutional amendment on the May 8, 2012, primary ballot.

Preston should be commended for countering the lies and even more so for bringing to light the utterly outrageous anti-gay rhetoric used by Barrett.

A “nuclear holocaust”? Really? I had no idea us gay folk were (a) so dangerous, (b) in possession of nuclear armaments and (c) willing to nuke mommies and daddies taking their kids out to stroll in the park on a sunny Sunday afternoon. News to me.

Preston’s video is just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re the kind that actually can bear to listen to complete nonsense, hate and bigotry, then download the full sermon by Barrett here or use the player below.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Video below; relevant “holocaust” comments at 3:59.

The Coalition to Protect All N.C. Families, those who are working overtime to defeat North Carolina’s anti-LGBT, anti-family, anti-business constitutional amendment on the May 8, 2012, primary ballot, have released new TV commercials detailing some of the potential harms of the measure.

In one ad, a mother speaks about her fear that Amendment One could strip health insurance from her daughter. More than 222,000 unmarried couples currently live in the state. Thousands of them have children. Domestic partner benefits covering unmarried partners and children — like those offered to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples in Greensboro — could be on the chopping block if the amendment passes.

But what has the rabidly anti-gay Amendment One proponents so worked up this week is the Coalition’s TV ad warning women about the consequences the amendment could have on current domestic violence protections.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is just completely beside itself, writing on its blog:

New ads in North Carolina are claiming NC’s Marriage Amendment will somehow interfere with domestic violence prosecutions for unmarried women. They know this is a lie. They have claimed the same thing before about, for example, Virginia’s similarly worded Marriage Amendment.

In Ohio a silly judge ruled that the marriage amendment had this effect, but he was swiftly overruled by Ohio courts. 30 states have marriage amendments. In none of them were women deprived of domestic violence protection.

More evidence that our opponents know they cannot win this vote on the main question: “should marriage remain a union of husband and wife?”

A “silly judge”? “Swiftly overruled”?

Groups like NOM and the North Carolina’s Vote For Marriage NC aren’t being completely honest with the public. The anti-amendment Coalition isn’t lying: Ohio courts had, indeed, interpreted their amendment to mean that domestic violence protections for unmarried couples were invalid. And, there was no “swift” action overruling such cases. It took nearly three years for the Ohio Supreme Court to finally settle the matter — three years that domestic violence victims and their children were forced to wait in fear and uncertainty.

In case you missed it back in March, you should catch this in-depth summary of the domestic violence debate by The News & Observer‘s Craig Jarvis.

The question here isn’t whether North Carolina’s amendment will have a definite impact on such protections. Rather, it is whether the amendment could. The uncertainty of Amendment One and its potential harms is what is so devastating.

No one — not NOM or Vote For Marriage NC or the anti-amendment Coalition — can see into the future. No one can say whether the amendment will have a definite impact one way or the other. NOM cannot know that the amendment will have no negative effects. That Amendment One could have these impacts is, by far, the most truthful and accurate statement thus far made in this debate — a warning the Coalition to Protect All N.C. Families has been sounding since the campaign’s inception.

Anti-gay opponents in North Carolina don’t want to face the facts about Amendment One. Just like their Ohio counterparts who argued in favor of stripping away domestic violence protections in order to protect their discriminatory amendment, NOM and Vote For Marriage NC are, above all other considerations, ideologues first and foremost, unwilling to deal with reality and the possible ramifications of their efforts to experiment with our guiding and foundational governing documents.