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New York update

Rob’s Eastern Europe update reminded me I’ve been meaning to give an New York update. SoulforceNY had its first meeting of the season and they’re cooking up some great stuff.

New York will host not one, but two, events as part of the Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights campaign:

  • A service at B’nai Jeshurun synagogue in Manhattan on October 9
  • Events near Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno’s office in Saratoga Springs on October 13

For more information on either event, visit Seven Straight Nights.
SoulforceNY has been working with the Catholic bishops in the area to develop and host workshops and conference to minister to LGBT individuals. This will help priests meet their parishioners where they are, understand their specific needs and concerns, and shed much needed insight into the lives of LGBT faithful.

For the Bible Tells Me So will be premiering October 1 and will hit theaters shortly thereafter. I’ve been invited to the premiere and will hopefully have lots to share. The film has already garnered lots of support in the festival circuit and I’m excited to see how audiences here will receive it.

Here is the very captivating trailer:

And on a more personal note, my friends keep migrating to New York and I am loving it. I can’t wait to see what collaboration with them will bring.

RUSSIA

In Moscow Wednesday, six LGBT demonstrators were fined for holding an unauthorized public event in what organizers say was an entirely lawful protest of Russia’s ban on gay blood donors. Led by Alexey Davydov, the activists gathered outside the Ministry of Health and Social Development two weeks ago to protest the 2001 law prohibiting homosexuals from donating blood.

In response to the growing HIV/AIDS crisis in the former Soviet power, government officials attempted to slow the rapidly growing infection rate by placing restrictions on blood donations. According to Russian government sources, an estimated 200,000 HIV-positive people are living in the country, while UN estimates are much higher, between one and two million.

No charges were brought in relation to the blood ban, and activists say they will add this rights infringement to their mounting appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. Moscow Gay Pride events for the last two years have been marred by nationalist counter protesters and police indifference, which parade organizers intend to bring before the European court.

FRANCE

The European Court of Human Rights has denied Poland’s appeal over the banning of 2005 pride events in Warsaw. Then mayor of the capital city, President Lech Kaczynski forbade the parade, only to be told by the European Court that such actions are illegal. Unfortunately, little can be done in the European system to prohibit these kinds of human rights violations other than publicly embarrass and pressure the recent EU member state to follow international guidelines.

Speaking from Strasbourg, Michael Cashman, president of the EU parliament’s gay caucus “Intergroup” said of the ruling, “It is yet another vindication of the brave efforts in favour of human rights that are being undertaken by Polish LGBT human rights defenders. I applaud their courage and their resolve and call upon the Polish Government, once and for all, to end their discrimination of the LGBT community or face the consequences of their behaviour unbecoming of an EU Member State.”

We’ll see…

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Honoring the Constitution

I’ve posted at least once before about the unsettling steps the federal governmant has been taking in the name of national security.  CNN reports that yesterday a Federal judge struck down portions of the Patriot Act.  As I read through the article I felt like I was back in 5th grade history class learning about why the early colonists launched a war for indepence.

 Judge Ann Aiken of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon wrote: “It is critical that we, as a democratic nation, pay close attention to traditional Fourth Amendment principles. […] The Fourth Amendment has served this nation well for 220 years, through many other perils.”

Thank goodness.

 It disturbs me that when judges rule in favor of this nation’s basic principles: equality under the law, personal freeom and liberty, security in one’s self and one’s surronding, they are blasted as unAmerican and “activist judges legislating from the bench.”  Standing up for the Constitution is the epitomy of American.

I hope the country thanks Judge Aiken.

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Senate passes hate crimes bill

The United States Senate just passed the hate crimes bill. Voting on cloture to end debate, the Senate voted 60-39, then proceeded to a voice vote to attach the bill as an amendment to the Department of Defense Re-Authorization bill.

The House has already passed a virtually identical hate crimes bill. President Bush has threatened to veto any hate crimes legislation. I have not yet heard of any response from the White House from today’s vote in the Senate.

Get more details via HRC.

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Personal note: I am without internet for the time being in my apartment here in Charlotte. I’ve found a nice little coffee shop where I can take a little time to do a brief update like this one. Starting Monday, I’ll be working 9am-6pm at my new job so I’ll have internet access then. If you need to contact me before then, email isn’t the best way to do it; call me instead (all contact info on my contact page).

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Hello Charlotte!

Today is the day I finally leave my mother’s home to make it own my own. After 21 years and some odd months, I’m off to “the big city” (like the only one we really have in North Carolina) to a new job, a new home (although home will always be Mom’s house) and a new beginning.

And another new beginning you’ve obviously already noticed: InterstateQ.com has a new re-design celebrating my move and my new life experience. Hope you like it; if you experience any problems, let me know.

I’ve been a bit secretive over why I’m moving and what job I’ll be taking although I’ve told plenty of close friends and family. I’ll leave everyone else to wait ’till the big announcement.

I’ve got everything packed up and almost loaded on to my uncle’s truck and my car. We head out of Winston-Salem at about 9:00am and will pick up my keys to my new apartment at 11:00am. After about an hour or so of un-packing there, Mom will drive off and maybe then the reality of this whole new life experience will set in.

When I went on the Soulforce Equality Ride in March and April 2007, I think it took a week or two for that reality to set in and really take a hold on me. I wonder how long it will take this time? Maybe it will hit me when I realize tonight as I get ready to go to bed that I don’t have Mom to say goodnight to as I head off to my bedroom.

I’m excited… so excited to be entering this chapter of my life. I’ll be having a stable, fun, exciting job that I’m absolutely stoked over and passionate about, but yet a job that continues to allow me to serve daily the LGBT community and in working to ensure that more people have a chance of seeing those principles and ideals forever enshrined in our founding documents and in the spirit that is America.

I’ll be putting together a little video blog/movie of my move. It’ll be up by this weekend.

And while you are waiting for me to get over my personal life and get back to my blogging… Take in some brief news from around the blogosphere:

MediaMatters: North Carolina’s daily newspapers dominated by conservatives, leaving progressive voices behind – Media Matters for America has released a report on the presence of conservative vs. centrist vs. progressive columnists in America’s daily newspaper Op-Ed sections. They’ve released some state-by-state data including North Carolina. Although Media Matters says that my beloved state is dominated by conservatives, I counted that the conservatives and progressives weren’t all that far apart. According to Media Matters, NC papers had a presence of 43 conservative columnists, 12 centrist columnists and 36 progressive columnists. While there are certainly more conservative columnists (don’t be shocked, this is North Carolina after all), there really isn’t that big of a difference between 43 and 36. I’d like to know if their Op-Ed study included a good survey and review of the politics of each of the newspaper’s editorial boards?

Soulforce members sit-in for marriage – On September 24, 2007, two Soulforce members sat-in at a local magistrate’s office demanding the right to marry. According to Queerty.com, Kate Burns and Sheila Schroeder sat-in at a Denver, CO, municipal building and were eventually arrested. The official Soulforce press release is here.

PS – I’ve still got a few tiny things to fix on the new design, but for the most part it is finished. It is best viewable on newer Microsoft Internet Explorers and alternative viewers like Mozilla’s Firefox. Someone with a Mac and Safari needs to fill me in.

According to a new study, college students who identify as heterosexual but engage in same-sex sexual behavior and/or are attracted to people of the same-sex are at the highest risk of suicidal behavior, ranking above students who identified as gay and significantly higher than students identifying as heterosexual and engaging in opposite-sex sexual behavior.

Reported in ScienceDaily, the study consisted of an 86 question survey given to 528 undergraduate students at The University of Wisconsin. Of the 528 survey participants, 404 were heterosexuals, 79 were same-sex attracted heterosexuals, 38 were gays, lesbians and bisexuals, and 7 said they were not sure of their sexual identity. The students ranged in age from 17 to 26.

Students identifying themselves as heterosexual but engaging in same-sex sexual behavior or reporting being attracted to individuals of the same sex were at the highest risk of suicidal behavior, being “three times as likely as heterosexuals to have made a plan to commit suicide in the past year and six times more likely to have actually attempted suicide in the same period.”

In contrast, gay, lesbian & bisexual-identified students were only “twice as likely as heterosexuals to have planned and to have attempted suicide in the previous year.”

According to the article:

“A lot of people stop thinking about sexual orientation related victimization and suicide as a problem beyond the K-12 school years,” she said. “But suicide doesn’t stop after high school. I thought I wouldn’t find very much victimization in Seattle, and I certainly wasn’t expecting these kinds of numbers.”

The study was provoked by a question from a 15-year-old gay male while Murphy was working on an internship as a school psychologist at a high school. The youth, who was suicidal and using drugs, asked her, “Does it get better in college”” She didn’t know.

[…]

She said the high suicidal-behavior rate among the same-sex attracted heterosexuals was a surprise, primarily because researchers previously had not looked at them as a separate group. “I was shocked by the finding because the rate for these students was just off the charts,” Murphy said.

There are two possible explanations for this, according to Murphy. One is that these people are still in the process of determining their sexual identity and the period before they disclose that they might be gay, lesbian or bisexual is difficult and they engage in suicidal thinking.

“They are still trying to fit into the mainstream heterosexual society and are not willing to talk to friends or go to a queer center to talk about what they are experiencing,” she said. “The gay culture has a family feeling that is welcoming and shows pride. However, these students are not there yet so they may be feeling shame and homophobia.”

The second possibility is that many bisexuals make this identification later in their 20s when they come out, and at 19, the mean age of the students in the study, many students may not yet be at the point of coming out, said Murphy.

Read the entire article.

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The delusional Iranian Hitler

Yesterday at Columbia University Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, “We have no homosexuals like in your country.” Get the full scoop here.

Delusional. Absolutely Delusional. Almost as delusional as some Americans who say there is no such thing as gay (a.k.a. some in the Religious Right).

Well, America… it’s okay… We just got “Punk’d” that’s all. Iran does have gays… well, at least they will if Ahmadinejad doesn’t kill them all.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Ahmadinejad also said, in response to the question about Iranian gays, “I don’t know who told you we had [homosexuals in Iran].”

Well… maybe we are all just imagining the flaming queers there.

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I admit that this is, indeed, a very long post, but I encourage you to read the whole thing. This is my report of the forum “Can you be Gay & Christian” and includes my thoughts and interpretations of the various statements and messages put forth there. I will also go on record publicly saying that I am ashamed that no gay or gay-friendly clergy found it wise enough to present the other side of this very important debate. To think that I was the only person there to speak against the messages taught is scary – especially considering that I hadn’t the time, the knowledge or the language to help any of the possible teens, young people or adults struggling with accepting themselves in their relationship with Christ and having to grow up in an environment that tells them they will never be quite good enough unless they change.

Synopsis

On Thursday, September 20, 2007, I was able to attend the “Can you be Gay & Christian” forum hosted by the Coalition of Conscience at the FIRE Church in Concord, NC. I posted about the forum first last month and then on Thursday (there is some good discussion on Thursday’s post).

The original intent of the forum, according to Coalition of Conscience director Dr. Michael Brown, was to have an open and honest dialogue between the Coalition of Conscience and members of the Charlotte-area gay & gay-friendly clergy.

Brown said he had invited members of the clergy from thirteen area churches – including the New Life Metropolitan Community Church, MCC of Charlotte, Myers Park Baptist Church, St. Martin’ & St. Peter’s Episcopal Churches, Holy Covenant UCC and Jay Bakker’s Revolution Church. Brown also said up to 500 personal invitations to the event were handed out at the Pride Charlotte festival at the end of August. He also noted that this was his third or fourth attempt at organizing a public discussion on issues of sexuality & Christianity with members of the Charlotte-area LGBT community.

Unfortunately, none of the invited gay or gay-friendly clergy or many (if any) of the LGBT community members showed up to the event. In fact, I did not meet even a single other openly gay (and self-affirming) person at the event other than my friend Shawn (who was nice enough to come with me to the event).

In a pre-event interview with Brown, he explained the purpose of the event.

“We want to open a door of grace to the gay & lesbian community. We are convinced from the Scriptures that Jesus is against homosexual practice. We are equally convinced that Jesus died for homosexual and heterosexual alike,” Brown said, “We know there is a lot of misunderstanding. We know that a lot of gays and lesbians have been driven out of churches as if homosexuality was the worst of all sins…. Just by saying, ‘Let’s talk about it,’ hopefully we can break a wall down there.”

At the beginning of the forum, however, Brown made his point very clear: One cannot be gay & Christian, or rather, one cannot be a self-affirming gay person and Christian:

“If you mean, can I be a devoted follower of Jesus while struggling with unwanted sexual desires, while saying I know these are wrong, I resist them, I don’t give into them, I do not practice homosexuality, I’m celibate and I’m abstaining from these things and my goal is to be pure in front of the Lord, but I’m still struggling with these things… Can you be gay and follow Jesus? In that sense, yes. And that’s the same as a heterosexual struggling with lust, desire, temptation outside of wedlock. However, if you mean can I practice homosexuality? Can I engage in romantic and same-sex relationships and does God endorse those things and can I be a follower of Jesus at the same time? The answer is absolutely, categorically no. The Scripture leaves no room to question that.”

Brown then went on to address the “Clobber Passages,” those passages of the Bible most often used to condemn homosexuality. Of course, Brown used his own interpretation of Creation, Leviticus, Romans and I Corinthians, without mentioning that many Biblical scholars throughout the entire world disagree with his interpretation (which is why it was so unfortunate that no gay or gay-friendly clergy showed up to make a presentation).

While Brown’s language was, indeed, couched in what one could certainly call “compassionate” language, it nonetheless left no room whatsoever for a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person to be both a devout follower of Christ and self-affirming. The language used, not only by Dr. Brown but by the other panelists as well, I found to be based entirely upon a common premise found in anti-gay theology: God does not love gay or lesbian people just as they are (I’ll expand upon this thought later, in my “Points I took concern with” section in this post – near the bottom).

Another member of the panel during the forum was Stephen Bennett, the leader of an ex-gay ministry. Bennett calls himself a “former homosexual” and gave his testimony during the forum. Relating his childhood of growing up with an alcoholic father, never fitting in at school, desiring the attention and approval of both his father and his fellow schoolmates, Bennett eventually made the case that a part of his “homosexual sin” was directly tied the love he never felt from his father.

At the end of his story, Bennett said that he was “looking for the love of his father in the arms of other men.”

During his very emotional testimony, Bennett related his “introduction to the Wonderful World of Homosexuality,” after he was dumped by the college school mate with whom he had his first gay relationship. Bennett related how he met with past school mates who were also gay.

“They introduced me to the gay bar scene and for the next eleven years my life was on a downward spiral as I got deeply involved in the homosexual lifestyle,” Bennett related.

He told of his heavy use of drugs and alcohol, promiscuity and one-night stands and his always unrequited searches for “Mr. Right.”

Finally, Bennett settled down into a happy relationship with another man, a relationship that lasted three years. According to Bennett, however, his happy life would turn to torment when an old friend visited him and spoke to him about the Bible and how she said it condemned homosexuality.

“Then she opened to Romans chapter one,” Bennett said, “And then she read to me the three things, ‘Stephen if you continue in this life’ – and I lost many friends to AIDS, I’ve buried numerous boyfriends in the ground who’ve died from AIDS and lost many dear friends. She said three things may happen. Number one, God may give you over to your sin. Number two, God may allow you to believe the lie and number three, he’ll make you a reprobate in his sight, meaning never have the chance to come back to the Lord… But that scared me so much, just like the Ethiopian eunuch I said, ‘What must I do to be saved?’

“Within two days I was out of my partner’s bed and in about two weeks or so on my way with my walk with Jesus Christ.”

Frank Turek, an apologist and professor at the FIRE School of Ministry was last to give his presentation, which consisted of “non-religious arguments” against the “validation” of same-sex relationships. For the most part, Turek’s presentation focused solely on marriage rights for same-sex couples and why the government shouldn’t endorse them.

Among Turek’s claims was that the “traditional family” is our “National Immune System” and that without traditional marriage, our nation and world society would be nothing. He also claimed that marriage for same-sex couples is about nothing more than recognition and acceptance, what he called “normalization and validation.”

Using taken-out-of-context quotes from gay leaders such as Andrew Sullivan and Michelangelo Signorile, Turek attempted to back up his claim that all gays wanted was to radically change the institution of marriage to the point where it meant nothing.

At the end of his presentation, Turek asked “Two Final Questions,” directly opposed to each other and based on what I think may be among some of the most twisted and illogical premises I’ve ever seen.

His first question was “What would be the effect on society if everyone lived faithfully in traditional marriage?”

He asked responses from the audience, with some answers: No STDs, no adultery, no abortion, no welfare, less crime, poverty would go down.

His second question was “What would be the effect on society if everyone lived faithfully in Same-Sex marriage?”

His response was that, “It would be the end of society. It would be over.”

While no one can really say that Turek’s answers to these two questions are entirely false, we can say that the two questions are entirely and utterly unrealistic and absolutely impossible. Gay folks aren’t asking for all people to be forced into same-sex relationships… we are asking that we be allowed to enter into relationships recognized by our government. Heterosexual people will always remain the overwhelming majority of people on earth and I don’t think we have to worry about a decline in our population just because of the allowance of marriage equality.

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Video & Audio

I wish I had more time to write on what I saw and heard at the Forum. I wish I could actually put the entire video up, but unfortunately I cannot. I am currently working on a high lights video and, below, are two videos with my personal testimony I gave to the audience and the response to my testimony.

Gay & Christian: Matt Comer’s Testimony

Gay & Christian: Response to Matt Comer’s Testimony

Perhaps the most distressing part of the forum came when my claims about extremist anti-gay views (such as those of my child-hood church) being an extension of the message being taught at the forum were confirmed by a member of the audience.

A Christian audience member first says that he agrees with me in that gay & lesbian people should not be killed, but then goes on to advocate the use of capital punishment against gay & lesbian people. His claims are similar to those I related in my personal testimony from my experiences in my childhood church. Dr. Brown, Mr. Bennett and Mr. Turek respond vigorously against the claims, although the Christian audience member’s words support my claims that it is only a small step from condemning so-called “homosexual behavior” and actively pushing for more violent and extreme responses against gay & lesbian people themselves.

The audio below contains the full exchange.

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.

You can download the audio to your computer with this link (right click & save file as or save target as)

Highlights of the Forum

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Some Forum Points that Concerned Me

There were numerous things said or insinuated within the forum that concerned me or with which I have to take issue.

From each of the panelists – Dr. Brown, Mr. Bennett and Mr. Turek – I had to take a step back and, in some ways, bite my tongue during the forum as I heard things that were either patently false, illogical or straight-up (excuse the pun) prejudiced and exclusionary.

Point One: God’s Love of Gay & Lesbian People & Comparisons between Homosexuality & Other Sins
Throughout the entire forum, numerous comparisons and linkages were made between homosexuality and sins such as pedophilia, incest, bestiality, adultery, alcoholism, lust and others. Sometimes the linkages were made in the form of a “slippery slope” argument (InterstateQ.com reader Jarred takes on the “slippery slope” defense against LGBT people in his blog).

There is one major difference between my sexual orientation and sins such as those I listed above. In each instance of adultery, incest, bestiality, adultery, alcoholism or pedophilia, a person (or more than one person is hurt). In my loving, life-long, committed relationship with another human being (who may happen to be a man), no one is hurt just as no one is hurt when there is a loving, committed, life-long relationship between a man and a woman.

Going further: In adultery, the one cheating on his or her partner is hurting that partner because he or she has actively betrayed their love, commitment & trust; also, the one cheating on his or her partner has also committed a sin in the eyes of God, as he or she has broken the promise made to God – and the partner – during the blessing of the relationship being broken.

In pedophilia, a child is not emotionally or mentally (not to mention, physically) able enough to make a decision on matters of sexual activity. In this instance, an adult betrays the trust, love and innocence of a child by taking advantage of the power he or she has over that child. The abuse of that child leaves life-long emotional, spiritual, psychological and, often times, physical scars and harm on the child.

In bestiality, one seeks only to fulfill a selfish, self-gratifying personal, sexual purpose. The animal is unable to return any love or commitment to the person. The animal is not human and the person engaging in such sexual perversity is not able to enter with the animal into any life-long, committed, mutual relationship, a place where the emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically intimate relationship of sex firmly belongs. The person hurts him or herself by denying themselves the fulfillment of human love and mutual devotion and commitment.

In alcoholism, the alcoholic not only hurts himself through the act of a continual poisoning of his or her body (the “temple of the Lord”), but the alcoholic also harms those around him or her. The alcoholic’s loved ones, friends, other family, community, employer and co-workers are all affected by the alcoholic’s continued drunkenness and inability to adequately care for himself, family, community or career.

In the act of incest, the two family members engaging in such activity help to contribute to the breakdown of the family unit. As put by InterstateQ.com reader Casey:

Briefly, one of the best arguments against permitting adult incest is the destabilizing effect that having family members as potential sexual conquests would have on the trusting intimacy of the family setting. For example, if adult incest was legal, how could I as a daughter trust that my Dad was just being protective when he encouraged me to “wait until it’s right”… as opposed to just trying to save me for himself? Things like that truly would destabilize the family unit in a way that is much more logical than the claims that having two mommies confuses kids. Thus, there is a very clear line and an entirely separate rationale for keeping incest illegal – it isn’t about sexual liberty, it’s about genuine family stability. Not to mention the concerning genetic aspects.

In short, incest breaks down the family unit by destabilizing the trust and mutual, non-sexual, familial love found within the family. This breakdown harms every individual in the family unit and contributes to the breakdown of society, as I think all people – gay or straight – agree that families (of all shapes and sorts) are the foundational building blocks of our society.

In lust, a person objectifies another person in an air of personal, sexual, self-gratification. Notice the word “objectifies.” While lusting, a person turns another human being – another beautiful creation of our God – into an object with one use: sexual gratification. Instead of seeing another person as a full member of God’s creation and a human with full dignity, the lusting person will see another as an object to a means.

In each of these instances, and more, the sin is a sin because it harms either the person committing the sin or the other people around the person committing the sin, or, in some cases, all the people (and more) involved. In life-long, committed, monogamous relationships between two people (either same-sex or opposite-sex), no harm is done to any person.

In terms of God’s love for gay & lesbian people, I cannot believe that my God would condemn me only for the love I feel and experience with another human being (male or female). I do not believe that my God would eternally separate me from His presence because I lived a life of love inside a life-long, committed, monogamous relationship with a man, experiencing the same and intense love and mutual devotion, care and support that is felt by straight people.

Also, I do not agree with Brown’s assertion that one cannot be gay & Christian. I feel as though any person who is a believer in Christ is indeed saved. This is called Free Grace. And while one is yet a sinner, one is saved by Grace. While I still find myself lying, cheating or stealing, I can still be assured that God has saved me. So, if “homosexual behavior” is a sin, Free Grace would still stand and a person would still be saved if they believe fully that Christ is their personal Saviour. When God makes a promise of salvation, he does not break that promise. For a person to live his whole life following & loving Jesus, what kind of promise-breaking God would send that person to hell simply because he or she felt love?

Point Two: The Linkage Between Bennett’s “Gay Bar Scene” Life with the “Homosexual Lifestyle.”
During his testimony, Stephen Bennett makes two statements which seem to conflate the lives of all gay & lesbian people with an unseemly and dangerous lifestyle of drugs, drinking & promiscuity.

He says he was introduced to the “Wonderful World of Homosexuality,” thereby insinuating that there is one and only one type of gay or lesbian person and that there is one and only one type of a so-called “homosexual lifestyle.”

Later, Bennett expands what he means by a “World of Homosexuality.” He says: “They introduced me to the gay bar scene and for the next eleven years my life was on a downward spiral as I got deeply involved in the homosexual lifestyle.” He tells of his troubles with drinking, heavy drug use, the selling of illegal drugs and promiscuity.

What makes his statement so wrong and so detrimental is his conflation/linkage/comparison of “the gay bar scene” with “the homosexual lifestyle.”

Gay & lesbian people – just like straight people – are varied, diverse and different. All people – gay or straight – live very different lifestyles. While Bennett (along with other ex-gay activists) so easily conflates “the gay bar scene” with a so-called “homosexual lifestyle,” I have never seen any one try to conflate any lifestyle of a straight person involved in a straight bar scene with the entire spectrum of different lifestyles experienced by straight people.

Gay or straight, people live varied lifestyles. Some people live quietly as students or scholarly people who sit at home and read all the time. Some people are athletes. Some people are career politicians. Some people are home-makers, house-wives and house-husbands. Some people spend all their time working in a law or financial career. Some people do nothing with their lives and sleep all the time and, yes, some people – both gay and straight – are involved in a life-killing, harmful and dangerous bar scene filled with illegal drug use, heavy drinking and promiscuity. Although some people may be involved in some sort of action, we cannot say that all are that way because some just happen to be.

Point Three: The Health of Gay & Lesbian People
Throughout the entire forum numerous mentions were made of AIDS. Although no panelist directly connected HIV/AIDS to gay & lesbian people, there were many times, especially in Bennett’s testimony, where AIDS was mentioned.

In Frank Turek’s presentation, it was noted that “some studies” supposedly showed that gay & lesbian people lived up to 30 or more years shorter than the average person. This is one of those patently false statements, as it is assuredly based on the debunked, non-scientific studies of Paul Cameron, a person repudiated by almost every major medical and psychological association for his unprofessional behavior and his non-scientific “studies.” More info on Cameron’s “Obituary Study” here.

Point Four: Bennett’s Testimony
Stephen Bennett’s testimony was emotional and moving. As I told him immediately following the close of the forum, I respect his testimony and life story and do not condemn him for it. I told him that I take issue with how many of the ex-gay organizations portray these important issues but that I do not harbor any malice against people who describe themselves as “former homosexuals.”

During his testimony, however, Bennett stated that this was only “my testimony, but there are many others who have gone through what I’ve gone through” and that many others have successfully changed from gay to straight.

That may be true, and if so, I can’t do anything about it. I do take issue and concern over the apparent forcefulness of the ex-gay industry’s attempts to say that all gay and lesbian people can and should change.

Just as Bennett claims that this was only his testimony but that there are many others that have experienced what he has, there are also many, many people on the other side of this debate – people like me and especially “ex-gay survivor” Peterson Toscano – who have experienced the opposite. There are gay & lesbian people, many of them, who have tried and tried and tried to change in order to fit into the church and who have never been successful. There are people who have gone through ex-gay therapies or other means to changing who have never been able to change from gay to straight. I’d dare say that for the majority of gay & lesbian people, change is not possible.

So then, the church gives gay & lesbian people two options: Change or forever live your life with the absence of a healthy, mutual, life-long, committed & monogamous relationship by remaining celibate (something Paul says that only a few are really called to do and that one must enter into voluntarily, not forcibly).

Point Five: God’s Word is the same now, then and forever
As a Baptist I firmly believe that, yes, God’s Word is the same now, then and forever. I believe that Scripture is unchangeable. But unlike my fellow Christian brothers and sisters of FIRE Church, Coalition of Conscience and other more conservative Christian strains, I do believe that the Bible is something human beings continuously come to understand in different and better ways as time progresses and as God reveals more truth to us.

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew people saw God and the spiritual world around them in a much different way than we now see it. In fact, Judaism does not even teach that there is a hell, or a place of eternal separation from God.

At one time in history, Christians believed that slavery was condoned by God and, in fact, if one were to read the Scriptures one could certainly find passages supporting that premise. The good news is that we – as God’s Children and under His Divine knowledge – have moved forward through new revelations of what He intends for humanity. We now know – no matter what the Scripture says – that slavery is not condoned by God.

At one time in history, people believed that Scripture condoned the treatment of women as nothing more than the personal property of her husband. Just as with the issue of slavery one can certainly find Scriptural passages to support this claim. However, like slavery, human kind has grown past this erroneous interpretation of God’s plan for humanity. We (well, at least I hope that the majority of us) now know and fully believe that women are equal to men and are not their personal property.

The Bible has also been used by Christians to condemn Jews, inter-racial couples, children, the disabled, the mentally ill and many, many more throughout history – including gay & lesbian people.

Now, humans are finding that the Bible does not necessarily condemn gay & lesbian people. Humans – through Divine knowledge – are coming to see that the love between a man and a man or a woman and a woman is no different than the love between a man and a woman. If there is one Scriptural and Gospel message that we can all agree upon, it is certainly the call to love others and to be loved by others. True, deep, compassionate, mutual and equal love between two humans who commit to live their lives together is never wrong and more and more Christians are coming to this conclusion.

The panelists were right: The Bible does not change… but, unfortunately, they do not understand the concept that our human understanding of what Scripture says and what God intends for us does indeed change as we grow in new spiritual revelations from God and as we bring more people into God’s loving arms and fold.

Point Six: “Un-natural Love” and “Counterfeit Relationships”
During the forum, Bennett claimed that the love and relationships of gay & lesbian people are “un-natural” and “counterfeit.” At the end of the forum he even told me that if I were to only take one and just one thing away from what he said, then I should remember that I “will never find Mr. Right.”

I’ve covered a lot of these points in Point Five above, but I feel it is extremely important to say that love is love. The love of a man and a man or a woman and a woman is no different than the love found between a man and a woman. Love is not harmful, dangerous, fake, “counterfeit,” or “un-natural.” Love is just that: love. No human should be able to tell another human that their committed, life-long, mutual and monogamous relationships and love is not valid. To do so is to place yourself in a position of judgment over another human being’s ability to love and be loved – something for which God clearly designed every human being.

Point Seven: Turek’s Claim that the Marriage Movement seeks only to bring “Normalization & Validation”
In his presentation, Frank Turek claims that gay & lesbian people do not truly desire marriage for marriage itself. Using taken-out-of-context quotes from gay leaders, Turek says that gay & lesbian people only seek the acceptance and recognition (something he calls “Normalization and Validation”) of their so-called “lifestyles.”

He quotes Andrew Sullivan who said that marriage is really the only reform that matters because it will provide many of the legal protections LGBT people are fighting for in other pieces of legislation. This quote is not meant to say that gay & lesbian people only want marriage because we seek to force an agenda on anyone, but rather fighting for marriage is more worthy a use of our time as a community because in the end we will gain many things: The right to marry the one we love and have that relationship consecrated by law – something we should all enjoy – and that we will also gain many other legal rights all citizens should have gay or straight.

He also quotes Michelangelo Signorile who uses quite radical language in saying that gays should fight for marriage and then destroy an “archaic institution.” Unfortunately, Turek must not realize that Signorile’s views are far, far, far from mainstream and that the majority of LGBT people probably do not even know who Signorile is.

_______________________________

I have done my best to present the forum “Can you be Gay & Christian” in the most accurate way possible. As I promised Dr. Michael Brown, I have attempted to represent the words of each panelist as fairly as possible. I have used quotes where possible and attempted to interpret the words and statements of each panelist as fairly as possible. With that said, however, it is only common sense for everyone reading this to realize that my particular interpretation of these words and statements will be far from the interpretation arrived at by any of the panelists and likely, by many of the audience members who may agree with the panelists. As a member of the minority group to which these words and statements are directed, one should be wise enough to expect that I may find something offensive or take issue with something that the majority group would not find.

If any clarifications need to be addressed, I’ll be open to that, but I will stand by my assertions in regard to my equality not only in the eyes of God and the Church, but also the law.

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25

Tonight: “Can you be gay & Christian”

PLEASE NOTE that an update and story on the forum on the evening of September 20th has been posted. Check out the update which includes in-depth commentary and video & audio.

Dr. Michael Brown of the Charlotte, NC (actually Concord, but, close enough) based Coalition of Conscience put out another press release yesterday enticing gay and gay-affirming clergy to take part in his forum entitled “Can you be Gay & Christian.”

The forum is set to take place tonight, 7:00pm at the FIRE Church in Concord, NC. A press conference will be held at 6:15. Brown has said that he will give the media a list of churches which were contacted and invited to the event.

While the Coalition of Conscience says that this will be an un-biased event and that there will be no gay bashing, I’m sure many LGBT or LGBT-affirming clergy feel otherwise.

While Brown uses the visits of Soulforce to Christian colleges and tries to draw a comparison, there really can’t be. Soulforce – representative of the minority – goes to the schools to be a voice for the minority there. The majority – in this case the Coalition of Conscience – isn’t doing the same thing as Soulforce. What they are doing is deciding, as the majority, that now is a good time to talk, on our time, on our home turf, to make us look good… Not because they really want to have a true dialogue.

But I’ll be there… and I’m going to try to have some true dialogue. I hope that they will truly do as they say they are going to and that there will really not be any gay bashing.

More info on the event here, with address & map.

PLEASE NOTE that an update and story on the forum on the evening of September 20th has been posted. Check out the update which includes in-depth commentary and video & audio.

2

The War hits close to home this time

theboysTonight, my family gathered at an aunt’s house. The occasion?

War.

PFC. Michael Taylor is headed to Iraq. Of course to me, he’s just always been Michael… the goofy little blond-headed kid. On Friday my cousin will leave to a base here in the U.S. and then be in Kuwait by Monday. After that, he’ll go to Baghdad… right up on the front lines as a bomb engineer/technician.

Photo (left-to-right): Me, my cousin Christopher, Michael and little bro Johnathon.

Up until now, no one in my family had been directly impacted by the War in Iraq. I had one cousin that served in the Navy during the Gulf War but no other family members (in recent history) had been sent off and this is the first time I’m really old enough to appreciate the seriousness of the situation.

On one hand, I’m really proud of my cousin. I’m proud that I can say someone in my family is serving his nation. I’m proud to say that someone in my family is protecting us. I’m humbled that my cousin is serving and protecting my right to do all the things I do in terms of activism or advocacy. Without good men like Michael, I wouldn’t have the ability to be Mr. Activist.

But on the other hand, I’m scared. Really scared. I thought as he drove off tonight to go fill out some transfer paperwork with his commander that tonight really could be the last time any one in my family sees him again. It is a really scary thing. The next time we see him, it may be in a coffin… at a military funeral.

My aunt (his grandmother) cried when he left and, to be honest, I almost cried too when I shook his hand, hugged him, told him goodbye and “Be careful.”

My aunt also cursed Bush and “his damned war.” If it were my grandson being carted off, maybe I’d be that emotional as well. But I could see a lot of pride in my grandfather’s eyes (my cousin’s great-grandpa) when he shook Michael’s hand and told him goodbye. There was worry there for sure, but you could nonetheless see and feel the pride he had in one of his grandsons. My grandpa served in Word War II and the Korean War; he knows exactly what Michael will be facing.

I pray for Michael… for his safety and well-being and that he comes back home to see his family. I pray that he’ll take care of his fellow service men and women and that they will take care of him. I pray that this war will end soon before any more of my cousins (or brothers) decide to enlist and I have to face the same fears all over again.