07 November 2009

You Can't Go Halfway (Part One)

John Shelby Spong

My dearest friend, Dr. Lester Earl Blue, Jr, recently emailed me an essay he came across while Web surfing. It was penned by noted theologian John Shelby Spong, no doubt in response to the ongoing turmoil over Gay issues in his Episcopal denomination. Reading it, I got the impression that a volcano of emotion has long been stirring inside Dr. Spong. I think he let it simmer below the surface for years, but the time came when only expressing a portion of that rage wasn't enough! Now he's finally let the top blow off, and the lava that's gushing out has taken the form of searing, incisive words. Blazing hot words, hot enough to burn away ambiguity and confusion!

That's the kind of natural phenomenon I both love to see and love to share with my blog patrons! Have you ever seen an exploding Christian? Are you ready to witness an eruption to rival Mount Saint-Helens? Then dare to approach the smoke-filled crater of a soul aflame with fury! Peer over the edge, and train your eyes on these key excerpts from Dr. Spong's Manifesto: The Time Has Come! It was originally posted to the Web on 15 October 2009, and the entire document can be viewed here.

I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the Biblical ignorance that emanates from so many Right Wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility. I will no longer discuss with them or listen to them tell me how homosexuality is "an abomination to God," about how homosexuality is a "chosen lifestyle," or about how, through prayer and "spiritual counseling", homosexual persons can be "cured." Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy.

I stopped spending time and energy on them many years ago! During the height of Anita Bryant-fueled anti-Gay hysteria, I quit my church in protest of the heterosexist sermons my pastor had begun preaching. Believe me, I've never regretted that decision!

I will no longer (listen) to the thoughts of those who advocate "reparative therapy," as if homosexual persons are somehow broken and need to be repaired. I will no longer talk to those who believe that the unity of the Church can or should be achieved . . . at the expense of Gay and Lesbian people. I will no longer take the time to refute the unlearned and undocumentable claims of certain world religious leaders who call homosexuality "deviant."

I wonder if the reparative therapy-tolerant staff of exgaywatch.com will take these words to heart? They should.

I will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase . . . "We love the sinner but hate the sin." That statement is . . . nothing more than a self-serving lie designed to cover the fact that these people hate homosexual persons . . . but (they) know that hatred is incompatible with the Christ they claim to profess, so they adopt this face-saving and absolutely false statement.

How long I've waited for someone of Dr. Spong's stature to make this all-too-true observation! He phrased it just right, too.

I will no longer temper my understanding of truth in order to pretend that I have even a tiny smidgen of respect for the appalling negativity that continues to emanate from religious circles . . . the Church has for centuries conveniently perfumed its ongoing prejudices against Blacks (sic), Jews, women and homosexual persons with what it assumes is "high-sounding, pious rhetoric." The day for that mentality has quite simply come to an end for me. I will personally neither tolerate it nor listen to it any longer.

The stench of perfumed prejudice and pious rhetoric is truly revolting! Millions of people refuse to tolerate it anymore, and it's obvious from the way many if not most LGBT folk view the mainstream Church as anathema!

I will particularly ignore those members of my own Episcopal Church who seek to break away from this body to form a "new church," claiming that this new and bigoted instrument alone now represents the Anglican Communion. Such a new ecclesiastical body is designed to allow these pathetic human beings . . . to form a community in which they can continue to hate Gay people, distort Gay people with their hopeless rhetoric, and to be part of a religious fellowship in which they can continue to feel justified in their homophobic prejudices for the rest of their tortured lives. Church unity can never be a virtue that is preserved by allowing injustice, oppression and psychological tyranny to go unchallenged.

It is, in fact, a false virtue! Jesus Christ said: Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the Earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law (Luke 12: 51-53). It was always inevitable that the Church would be divided against itself!

In my personal life, I will no longer listen to televised debates conducted by "fair-minded" channels that seek to give "both sides" of this issue "equal time." I am aware that these (TV) stations no longer give equal time to the advocates of treating women as if they are the property of men, or to the advocates of reinstating either segregation or slavery, despite the fact that when these evil institutions were coming to an end, the Bible was still being quoted frequently on each of these subjects. It is time for the media to announce that there are no longer two sides to the issue of full humanity for Gay and Lesbian people.

Are you listening, network and cable network news producers? Stop "balancing" LGBT issues with on-air rebuttal from the likes of James Dobson, Tony Perkins and Maggie Gallagher! What you're creating isn't balance, it's distortion!

I will no longer act as if the Papal office is to be respected if the present occupant of that office is either not willing or not able to inform and educate himself on public issues on which he dares to speak with embarrassing ineptitude.

"Embarrassing ineptitude" is too mild a description for Pope Ratzinger's hateful broadsides against LGBT humanity! I prefer to call what comes out of his wicked mouth "verbal genocide"! When he claimed that Transgender life threatens the Earth's ecology, that's when I knew he hadn't truly renounced his Hitler Youth past!

I will no longer be respectful of the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who seems to believe that rude behavior, intolerance, and even killing prejudice is somehow acceptable, so long as it comes from Third World religious leaders, who . . . reveal in themselves the price that colonial oppression has required of the minds and hearts of so many of our world's population.

Now, this is what I call bonafide fire-and-brimstone preaching . . . Dr. Spong is truly kickin' ass and takin' names!

"You Can't Go Halfway" concludes with Part Two.

06 November 2009

You Can't Go Halfway (Part Two)

John Shelby Spong

I see no way that ignorance and truth can be placed side by side, nor do I believe that evil is somehow less evil if the Bible is quoted to justify it.

Whoa, now! There's a sentence worth repeating.

I see no way that ignorance and truth can be placed side by side, nor do I believe that evil is somehow less evil if the Bible is quoted to justify it. I will dismiss as unworthy of any more of my attention the wild, false and uninformed opinions of such would-be religious leaders as Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Albert Mohler, and Robert Duncan. My country and my Church have both already spent too much time, energy and money trying to accommodate these backward points of view when they are no longer even tolerable.

Say amen, somebody!

I make these statements because it is time to move on. The battle is over. The victory has been won.

Ah, if only that were true! I fear that the battle has only begun to engage. LGBT folk are vilified from the pulpit, banned from public and private institutions, cut off from constitutional protections, harassed at school and in the workplace, and randomly beaten and murdered, but there are worse things that could happen to us! I don’t accept the general consensus that a Nazi Germany could never rise again. The intensity of hatred for human beings who don't fit binary gender standards is plenty strong enough to trigger a new Holocaust somewhere in the world! I find the degree of LGBT persecution in Africa and the Caribbean particularly alarming; just look at the unrestrained transphobia recently directed at South African athlete Caster Semenya (see my essays titled "I Am Caster Semenya", Parts One and Two)!

There is no reasonable doubt as to what the final outcome of this struggle will be. Homosexual people will be accepted as equal, full human beings, who have a legitimate claim on every right that both church and society have to offer any of us. Homosexual marriages will become legal, recognized by the state and pronounced Holy by the Church. "Don't ask/Don't tell" will be dismantled as the policy of our Armed Forces.

God willing, these predictions will come to pass, and during my lifetime! Pardon me, though, if I don't hold my breath waiting for these happy events to occur under Barack Obama’s administration! We’ll need a chief executive with the moral clarity of a Harry Truman or Lyndon Johnson, and sadly, those qualities do not appear to exist within our current President.

We will and we must learn that equality of citizenship is not something that should (ever) be submitted to a referendum. Equality under and before the law is a solemn promise conveyed to all our citizens in the Constitution itself. Can any of us imagine having a public referendum on whether slavery should continue, whether segregation should be dismantled, whether voting privileges should be offered to women? The time has come for politicians to . . . abandon that convenient shield of demanding a vote on the rights of full citizenship . . . they do not understand the difference between a constitutional democracy, which this nation has, and a "mobocracy," which this nation rejected when it adopted its Constitution. We do not put the Civil Rights of a minority to the vote of a plebiscite.

Will someone please tell me how to get otherwise intelligent Gay activists like John Aravosis, Joe Sudbay and Evan Wolfson to grasp this basic truth? Why do so many of us rush to take part in our own constitutional disenfranchisement? Like lemmings, we compulsively leap upstream each time our enemies on the religious Right Wing set the anti-Gay ballot measure current flowing. We've been trounced at the polls 31 times to date, yet we persist in believing that a just little more fundraising, just a little more TV time, just a little more door-to-door campaigning can win voters over to marriage equality.  Maybe so, probably not, but that's hardly the point. Earth to space cadets, can you hear me? We're citizens, not candidates for public office! How is it that we no longer understand the difference? For more on this topic, read my essay titled “Save The Country”, Parts One and Two:

I will also no longer act as if I need a majority vote of some ecclesiastical body in order to bless, ordain, recognize and celebrate the lives and gifts of Gay and Lesbian people in the life of the Church. No one should ever again be forced to submit the privilege of citizenship in this nation or membership in the Christian Church to the will of a majority vote.

Clergy who share Dr. Spong’s conviction must be ready to put their jobs on the line! They must be prepared to sacrifice their leadership positions, to quit their denominations, to declare exclusive allegiance to the supremacy of God in Christ at risk of excommunication. They must be willing to forfeit their churches, as did the Reverend Jimmy Creech when he decided to treat his Gay and Straight parishioners equally. Do Progressive preachers really have the courage to follow through?

Inequality for Gay and Lesbian people is no longer a debatable issue in either Church or State. Therefore, I will from this moment on, refuse to dignify the continued public expression of ignorant prejudice by engaging it. I do not tolerate racism or sexism any longer. From this moment on, I will no longer tolerate our culture's various forms of homophobia. I do not care who it is who articulates these attitudes, or who tries to make them sound Holy with religious jargon.

I trust Dr. Spong will be 100% true to this statement! I hope he realizes that some of those forms of homophobia he mentions are articulated by Gay clergy. I hope he's prepared to chastise colleagues like the Metropolitan Community Church's Nancy Wilson, Soulforce's Mel White, and minister/pundit Irene Monroe for their endorsement of the word "queer" to describe LGBT folk. As '70s Pop star Johnny Nash sings in one of my favorite Reggae songs: You can't go halfway/You've got to go all the way!* Ignorance from within is just as corrosive as ignorance from without, and may be more so!

I have been part of this debate for years, but things do get settled, and this issue is now settled for me. I do not debate any longer with members of the "Flat Earth Society", either. I do not debate with people who think we should treat epilepsy by casting demons out of the epileptic person; I do not waste time engaging those medical opinions that suggest that bleeding the patient might release the infection. I do not converse with people who think that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans as punishment for the sin of being the birthplace of Ellen DeGeneres, or that the terrorists hit the United States on 9/11 because we tolerated homosexual people, abortions, feminism or the American Civil Liberties Union.

This is nothing if not a commentary on how far American pundits have veered outside the realm of credibility! Thirty years ago, we would never have heard such outrageous theories presented in major media outlets. Today, though, it's a matter of routine, and punditry on LGBT topics tends to be the most outrageous of all!

I am tired of being embarrassed by so much of my church's participation in causes that are quite unworthy of the Christ I serve, or the God whose mystery and wonder I appreciate more each day. Indeed, I feel the Christian Church should not only apologize, but do public penance for the way we have treated people of color, women, adherents of other religions, and those we designated heretics, as well as Gay and Lesbian people.

I think the word Dr. Spong is grasping for here is "repentance". It’s a word that should be used forcefully and often whenever we talk about the disgraceful activities of Fundamentalist hatemongers!

This is my manifesto and my creed. I proclaim it today. I invite others to join me in this public declaration. I believe that such a public outpouring will help cleanse both the Church and this nation of its own distorting past. It will restore integrity and honor to both Church and State. It will signal that a new day has dawned, and (that) we are ready not just to embrace it, but also to rejoice in it and to celebrate it.

The state of Maine has just disenfranchised its Lesbian and Gay residents; the viciously bigoted Rev. Bernice King just got elected to head the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); a long-distance friend of mine (famous '60s songwriter Ellie Greenwich) recently died; and I lost my job last month, so a new day sounds awfully good to me right now. Bring it on!

Dr. Spong has discovered what every committed Christian must learn sooner or later: When it comes to loving your neighbor as you love yourself (Mark 12:28-31), you can't go halfway! You've got to go all the way. You've got to affirm both the letter and the spirit of the Savior's teachings, and you can't accommodate anything or anyone that impedes your journey to full salvation!

MARK 9:43-48:
(Jesus Christ said) "If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life maimed than to have hands and to go to Hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into Hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out! It is better for you to enter the Kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into Hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

I fully support Dr. Spong's Manifesto, and I think every decent person should do so as well, regardless of faith tradition. My own Manifesto complements it nicely, if I do say so myself: you can read it by scrolling to the bottom of my blog. If that steamed-up statement still doesn't quench your appetite for flaming lava in word form, then check out Rev. Jerry Maneker's new essay on self-hating Gay Christians.  It's so high-voltage, you dare not read it without a surge protector on your computer!

*excerpt from "You Can't Go Halfway" 
by Margaret Nash and Jimmy Norman,
copyright 1974 Cissi Music, Incorporated (BMI)

16 September 2009

I Am Caster Semenya (Part One)

Caster Semenya

By design, God places diverse human beings on Earth . . . diverse in size, shape, color, and gender . . . and invites us to marvel at His boundless creativity. Yet wicked humankind dares to pass judgment on God's creations! It confers pariah status on certain individuals due to physical appearance or manner of expression. In presuming to judge God's work, humankind imagines itself equal to or even superior to God. This is the mother of all abominations!

South Africa's Caster Semenya was a darling baby girl when she made her debut on 7 January 1991. As she grew into a child, she became a sports-loving "tomboy" who disdained wearing dresses and frilly clothes. Her schoolmates jeered at her mannerisms and appearance. They would yell: "She acts like a boy . . . and she looks like a boy, too!" The taunts stung, but she never let hurt feelings show. Her family's unconditional love helped arm the little girl against the rudeness of the world.

Ms. Semenya's love for playing soccer evolved into an avid interest in middle-distance track and field running. As she grew into adolescence, she excelled in this event. She recently started competing at the international level. Last year, she won a Gold Medal at the British Commonwealth Youth Games, and this year she bagged more Gold at the African Junior Championships and the World Championships in Athletics, held in Berlin, Germany.

This muscular 18-year-old girl has developed into a world-class competitor. She dominates the 800 meter dash with an amazing 1:55 time; she's a credit to women's sports, and to South Africa. Caster Semenya's success has much to do with the non-traditional woman's image she crafted for herself. Fortunately, she was brought up in an African community that was progressive enough to let her do so; but unfortunately, the kind of female image she projects doesn't sit well with certain Olympic officials!

Recently, the International Association of Athletics Federations asked her to undergo some tests. Not the kind of tests you'd expect, though! Although suspicious of her record-breaking times, they had no desire to learn whether or not she used performance-enhancing drugs. No, they wanted to know something much more personal . . . much more insulting! The Association asked Caster Semenya to let them "verify" her gender.

"Gender verification" involves submitting to gynecological, hormonal and psychological examinations. Ms. Semenya consented to some of this dubious testing, but other procedures were apparently done without her knowledge. In direct violation of privacy rules, the results were maliciously leaked to the sports press. International media outlets reported sensationally on her apparent lack of uterus and ovaries, and trumpeted the phenomenon of internal testes that give her an unusually high testosterone count. The girl was cruelly "outed" as an intersex person, "outed" simultaneously to the world, to her country, to her family, and to herself as well.

All over print and electronic media, this innocent teenager has been repeatedly slandered with the ugly and inaccurate term "hermaphrodite". Incredibly, she's also been accused of faking female identity! Her Gold medals are in danger of being stripped, and the IAAF may forbid her to compete in future track and field events. All South Africa has responded with justifiable outrage. An IAAF official, track coach Wilfred Daniels, has resigned from the organization in protest of her horrendous treatment.

Caster Semenya identifies as female. She was raised as female. Her birth certificate says she is female. Not to put too fine a point on the matter, but . . . she has a vagina. What fraud did she commit? How dare the sports establishment set itself up as the arbiter of her gender? Are we supposed to believe they would've allowed her to compete as a man with female genitalia?

Ms. Semenya is in no way at fault here. She has done nothing wrong, and despite much talk about her supposed "biological problem", there is nothing wrong with her body! Thus far in her young life, it has served her quite well. If God chooses to give a woman testes instead of ovaries, who are we to cast aspersions on the gift?

The fault lies with the IAAF and with the larger society, which arrogantly tries to second-guess nature and create impossibly rigid definitions of male and female! Worse, society refuses to see blended gender as anything but an aberration of nature. Humanity forces a tyranny of binary gender upon itself, something God never intended (read Jesus Christ's teaching on born eunuchs from Matthew 19: 12). This ignorance obliges Transgender human beings to own identities that negate part of who they are. Under such twisted circumstances as these, all gender identity claims are suspect!

The history of gender-testing in sports reeks of sexism. The Nazis sent a man named Horst Ratjen to masquerade as a woman sprinter in the 1936 Olympics; when the deception was discovered years later, it caused a predictable uproar. Ever since then, women athletes with a pronounced masculine aspect have been subjected to rude speculation. In 1966, the IAAF adopted a crude, unscientific testing process for "verifying" femininity. The process was later modified and is no longer officially mandated, but the Association can and does continue to insist that certain competitors undergo it. Apparently, these humiliating tests have only ever been done on women, and only an athlete's female gender has ever come under suspicion. How much more pronounced can sexism be?

Adding insult to injury, the tests are inconclusive! "There is no simple laboratory test that can tell if you are a man or woman," says Professor Arne Ljungqvist, an expert on human gender and a former IAAF official. In a London Times interview dated 13 September 2009, he stressed that "if a person carries a legal certificate showing that (they are) a man or a woman, then they are a man or a woman!" Yet, according to that same article, numerous women athletes have been judged ineligible for Olympic competition as a result of this flawed procedure. One of them was East Indian track and field runner Santhi Soundarajan; read her story here.

"I Am Caster Semenya" concludes with Part Two.

I Am Caster Semenya (Part Two)

Caster Semenya

There hasn't been a lot of good media analysis of this scandal, but one pundit who has the right take on it is sports writer Simon Barnes. In a 24 August 2009 column for The London Times, he stated:

The undeniable fact that there can be physical ambiguity between one gender and (another) is something that profoundly disturbs us. In life, but perhaps even more so in sport, we crave certainties. We have men's tennis and we have women's tennis, and so there was always a squirming discomfort about the Transsexual player, Renée Richards . . . but (Caster Semenya's) physical sexual ambiguity cuts still deeper . . . (Ms.) Semenya must suffer because of the world's taste for certainties. And as for sport, where does that go? Do we say that men's sport is for men, women's sport is for women, and that those who happen to have their being in border country . . . simply can't compete? And is that because it's unfair (or) because it's too upsetting for the rest of us? And we all thought sport was supposed to be accessible to all.

Mr. Barnes went on to observe that "(Ms.) Semenya must feel the weight of the world's punishment for the crime of depriving us of certainties . . . those who challenge our assumptions about gender must suffer." So true! Don't you dare be a man with a switchy walk or a high voice. Don't you dare be a woman with muscles and a low voice. Don't you dare wear clothing that's too dainty/too butch. Don't you dare wear your hair too long/too short. And for goodness's sake, don't be openly Transsexual! If you are in any way non-traditional in your expression of gender, society will indeed make you suffer!

Prepare yourself for ridicule. Prepare yourself for ostracism! Prepare to fend off irrational hostility that can escalate into violence against your person. Prepare to be condemned by your school, your church, your family. Prepare for difficulty earning your living, for jobs that you keep or lose based on how tolerant of difference your supervisors and co-workers are (I know this is true from personal experience). Get ready to be banned from the Boy Scouts, from the US military, from the pulpit, from the wedding chapel.  Folks, this is how they do you when they decide you are "queer"! The wrenching testimony that Gay, Lesbian, Pansexual and Transsexual people could give a fact-finding commission would make South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation hearings of the 1990s look like silly parlor games!

In our wildest imaginings, though, most LGBT folk would never expect to endure what Caster Semenya is enduring now. She's been subjected to the equivalent of a televised gynecological exam with a global hook-up, cameras aimed up her vagina, uterine x-rays on the split screen, and pundits à la Fox News offering crass color commentary! Speaking of which, the General Secretary of the IAAF recently told a reporter: "It's clear that (Ms. Semenya) is a woman, but maybe not 100%." That's actually one of the more restrained quotes I know about! I've seen some disgraceful, dehumanizing press coverage in my time, but this recent batch takes the grand prize for boorishness!

The Times reports that "many medical experts" recommend removal of Caster Semenya's male organs "before they cause her harm." Awareness of her Transgender body has prompted such "experts" to all but demand that she undergo sex change surgery. Now, isn't that special? A second invasive procedure for the poor girl! Maybe it will be just as successful as the first one was! At the very least, it should rate more lurid media coverage!

With every oh-so-concerned observation about her "medical condition", society pressures Ms. Semenya to conform to their gender expectations. The world desperately wants to stamp her masculine body presentation out of existence, lest its tender sensibilities be offended for all eternity! I fear that if people continue to judge the young lady so harshly, it's not just her body presentation that will cease to exist. She might feel compelled to take her own life! Ms. Semenya has gone into seclusion at the University of Pretoria, and is reportedly seeking therapy. Her handlers had the foresight to put her on suicide watch; God forbid that this travesty should turn into a tragedy!

There's another kind of death that Caster Semenya could fall victim to, though: A death of the spirit. A death that compels her to spend the rest of her life wearing a mask of socially-sanctioned gender. A death that leaves her filled with shame at the painstaking work God did when he fashioned her beautiful, powerful body. Apparently, her spirit hasn't died yet: A spiritually dead person would never say, as she did recently to the South African lifestyle magazine You: "God made me the way I am, and I accept myself." However, she allowed the magazine to give her a ludicrous "makeover" to eliminate all traces of masculinity. That's not a good sign!

If Caster Semenya can continue to hold her head up after suffering such utter humiliation, she may well choose to hide behind a gender mask. Her "makeover" suggests that some kind of "sexual reassignment" lay in her future. On the other hand, she might go in the opposite direction and decide to retain her intersex status; that would be extraordinary, and it would send an inspiring message to other masculine girls. But who could fault her choices at this point? They are hers and hers alone to make.

There's one choice I hope she won't fail to make, though: The choice to demand justice! Justice for herself and others like her who've been hurt by binary gender tyranny. She should file the mother of all defamation lawsuits against the IAAF and numerous media outlets! Ms. Semenya should sue not only to reclaim her own dignity, but to put on notice every institution that would destroy someone's human dignity because of non-traditional gender expression. Up against the wall, you dirty mothers . . . . it's payback time!

Are you a butch Lesbian? An effeminate Gay man? A Transsexual person who refuses to hide? An intersex person in body or spirit? If so, then you are one of God’s Transgender children, too! You are Caster Semenya! I am Caster Semenya. We are all Caster Semenya, and we should all be mad as Hell, and we shouldn't . . . we mustn't . . . tolerate this sexist, transphobic oppression anymore!

The same goes for any Christian, regardless of gender identity. The inclusive Gospel of Jesus Christ mandates humankind to repent of transphobia: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength (Mark 12:30). How is it possible to love the Lord but despise His creations?

Jesus saw some babies nursing. He said to His disciples: "These nursing babies are like those who enter the kingdom." They said to Him: "Then shall we enter the kingdom as babies?" Jesus said to them: "When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female . . . then you will enter (the kingdom)."

23 June 2009

Democratizing The Dallas Principles (Part One)

Dallas Principles

Gay people are so damn apathetic and unmotivated! That's been true as far back as the time of German Gay Rights pioneer Magnus Hirschfeld, who complained bitterly about it. I expect it to be true through the end of my remaining years on this planet. By eagerly embracing slurs and stereotypes, gobbling up crumbs thrown our way by politicians, and giving the religious Right Wing a free pass to abuse us, we all but invite bigotry and discrimination!

I can't deny though, that since the marriage equality debacle in California, the natives have become a lot more restless! Suddenly, a significant number of us seem to be in the mood for justice. We've finally allowed ourselves to get angry again: Angry at the power structure, angry at our advocacy organizations, angry at a movement pace that too often seems glacial. At least for the moment, we want to march. We want to litigate. We want to speak truth to power! We long for a new, more sharply focused strategy with non-negotiable objectives.

In this spirit of urgency, a motley group of LGBT activists met last month in a Dallas, Texas hotel. Except for former Ambassador to Romania Michael Guest, longtime activist Mandy Carter, Straight ally Reverend Jimmy Creech and blogger Pam Spaulding, the names of the 24 participants were unfamiliar to me. All were distinguished in their respective fields, though, which ranged from science, politics, law and commerce to philanthropy, journalism, religion and the arts. After several days of intense discussion, the group drafted a document consisting of a preamble, a set of Civil Rights goals, a call to action and eight operating principles. Then these two dozen professionals dispersed back to their respective hometowns with a mission to publicize their manifesto.

They called it The Dallas Principles; the title references an AIDS activist manifesto known as The Denver Principles, written in 1983. The preamble reads as follows:

At several junctures in American history, the stars have aligned to deliver the promise of equal protection under the law to those previously denied. At this unique time in history, our nation must once again exercise the great tradition of making its people equal . . . those content with the way things are will be judged harshly by history. Those who do not actively advance these ideals or offer excuses will be judged just as harshly . . . we believe in the inherent human dignity of all people. No longer will we submit our children, our family, our friends and ourselves as a political tool for any Party or ideology. A new day has arrived.

Word about the Dallas Principles is spreading fast. There's now a website, and the manifesto has been heavily promoted at The Huffington Post, Pam's House Blend and many other Progressive blogs. The drafters see their document as the foundation of a revitalized, twenty-first century Gay Rights movement. Their stated goal is "achieving full Civil Rights faster". Unfortunately, their manifesto reads like it was put together too fast!

I must admit, I initially found it underwhelming. The whole enterprise struck me as pompous, and the Principles themselves failed to impress me at first reading. However, after re-reading and discussing them with friends, some are starting to grow on me. Here are all eight declarations; save for my style edits, they’re exactly as they appear at the Dallas Principles website:

In order to achieve full Civil Rights now, we avow:

1. Full Civil Rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender individuals must be enacted now. Delay and excuses are no longer acceptable.

When I read these sentences, my first impulse was to say: “Neat trick, if you can pull it off! Just try to eliminate all the different kinds of discrimination at once!” That will almost certainly not happen! However, to the extent that this statement discourages prioritizing one issue over another, I do support it. All forms of discrimination against us are unacceptable, and all are worth the resources we spend on combating them. Who's to say that marriage equality is more important than hate crimes legislation? That open military service trumps access to adoption and foster parenting? It depends on individual priorities. We have no choice but to multi-task and tackle these problems simultaneously. What’s more, we can’t let power brokers and policymakers off the hook until every injustice against us has been reversed!

2. We will not leave any part of our community behind.

What does that mean? This declaration is nebulous. Most people will assume that it addresses Transfolk, but that’s just an assumption. Why weren't they identified by name? Who is actually considered part of our community (a term I use advisedly)? We shouldn't have to guess. Guessing can get us in trouble!

Over the years, many fringe groups have claimed membership in the Gay “community”: Hardcore sado-masochists, fetish worshippers, public sex advocates, “bareback” sex advocates, and even NAMBLA members. I don't share the values of those groups, I want no part of their unsavory activities, and I'd never support a Principle that promotes them!

3. Separate is never equal.

True, but they should've fleshed this statement out a bit more. As is, it sounds too much like a cliché.

4. Religious beliefs are not a basis upon which to affirm or deny Civil Rights.

Patently false! This is an argument for a secular Gay Rights movement, which we already have. Our crusade is all the weaker for lacking a prominent religious component! How could Rev. Jimmy Creech sign off on a statement like this? Haven’t all the sacrifices he’s made on behalf of LGBT equality been validations of his Christian beliefs?

Only one part of this statement is correct, the part about religion justifying the denial of Civil Rights; but true faith, especially Christian faith, is an excellent basis upon which to affirm them. Proof is right there in the Gospel of Jesus Christ: Love others as you love yourself (Matthew 19: 19).

The secular world has been buffaloed, tricked into believing that Scripture supports the marginalization of Gay people; that has never been and will never be true, no matter how many times Pope Ratzinger may say otherwise! What could be more powerful than a faith-based Civil Rights crusade? Look at the one Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led, how it inspired the world, and what sweeping changes it brought to our society. Look, too, at how strong the faith component has made our enemies! This ill-conceived Principle reeks of religion-phobia; I find it totally counter-productive. It robs us of Liberationist theology, an essential weapon in our fight!

5. The establishment and guardianship of full Civil Rights is a non-partisan issue.

True, although most Republicans obviously haven’t realized this truth yet! I hope when they say "non-partisan", the Dallas group isn't just thinking about the major political parties. LGBT Rights is an issue that Libertarians, Greens, Independents, et al can conceivably agree on, too. Limiting ourselves to a narrow, inside-the-Washington-beltway, two-party outreach would make no sense.

6. Individual involvement and grass roots action are paramount to success and must be encouraged.

Very true. Keep this Principle in mind, because I intend to reference it later on!

7. Success is measured by the Civil Rights we all achieve, not by words, access or money raised.

True enough, but on the other hand, just try to achieve success without devoting sufficient time to fund-raising! If raising money is as unimportant as this statement implies, the Dallas group better have the ability to mobilize thousands of eager volunteers; otherwise, its agenda won't amount to anything but words on paper! That said, I also take exception to the implication that words don't matter much. If they didn't, what would be the point of writing a manifesto?

8. Those who seek our support are expected to commit to these principles.

In other words, those who can commit to some of these Principles but not to others aren’t worthy allies? How arrogant!

The drafters seem to have forgotten that LGBT folk are a minority group! We’re in no position to dictate that everybody be on exactly the same page as we are! Many of our allies are still educating themselves about our issues: Our own relatives, for example! They don’t all have to be at the top of the learning curve, and we don’t have to compromise our goals to accept what help they have to offer. Granted, #1, #2 (with caveat) and #3 are Principles our allies must share, but insisting on 100% agreement (especially with the more questionable resolutions) is self-defeating!

We can and should seek common ground with somewhat like-minded people; otherwise, implementing Principle #5 will be impossible! This statement is much too haughty for its own good.

"Democratizing the Dallas Principles" concludes with Part Two.

22 June 2009

Democratizing The Dallas Principles (Part Two)

Dallas Principles

To be sure, some of these Dallas Principles haven't been completely thought out! The list itself isn't complete, either. A few more key concerns appear in the Goals section of the manifesto, a more specific list which hasn't attracted as much attention. Yet even there, some important issues go unaddressed. AIDS activists have criticized the lack of a statement mandating HIV education, prevention and research funding. HIV/AIDS isn't just an issue for Gay men, of course, but we've been so heavily impacted by this epidemic, it makes sense that we might want to address it in this context.

We've got more to worry about than just AIDS, though! What about breast cancer among Lesbians? What about black market silicone and other dangers to Transsexual health? What about the harmful effects of hetero-bigotry on our collective mental health? The Goals section does include a call for "affordable, high quality and culturally-competent health care without discrimination," but that language sounds too generic. I would've preferred more direct wording: There must be a national health care policy tailored to the specific physical and mental health needs of LGBT folk!

While I'm glad the Dallas group addressed education among their Civil Rights Goals, it's far too urgent an issue to have been slotted there. It should've been a Principle! Again, my wording would have been different. It's fine that they stress the need for identity-affirming instruction, free of the bullying atmosphere that exists for most Gay kids. There certainly is a need for that! However, our education-related problems aren't limited to elementary and middle schools. We have them at the college level, too! There's got to be transformative reform in our educational institutions, from kindergarten all the way up to advanced graduate programs.

That transformation necessarily involves overhauling heterosexist school curriculums, mandating sensitivity classes to address fear and superstition about LGBT identity, and demanding our inclusion in required Civics and History texts. The Stonewall rebellion should be taught alongside the Montgomery bus boycotts and the Berkeley free speech protests! What's more, every sex education class should include instruction about same-gender sexuality, and that instruction must be communicated in an unbiased way. When society remains ignorant of the presence, importance and contributions of LGBT people, we suffer for it! We must vigorously oppose religious Right Wing efforts to ban Gay topics from both the public and private school classroom!

However, we can't forget that a true revolution always begins at home: With the oppressed, and the way they think and talk about themselves. At the college level, we must insist that LGBT scholars choose a more respectable name for their discipline than "Queer Studies"; that they rid their discipline of its objectifying tendencies; and that they fully integrate it into mainstream Sociology. Intellectual segregation is just as bad as any other kind! My ideal Education Principle would read something like this: Every school must be transformed into a safe and affirming space for both LGBT students and LGBT curriculum!

What else was left out? A resolution defining the spiritual sadism of "ex-Gay" ministries as torture.  A resolution condemning passivity in response to religious Right Wing attacks. A resolution decrying sexual exploitation of our LGBT incarcerated. A resolution demanding senior living facilities that welcome LGBT elderly. A resolution denouncing media conspiracies of silence around closeted public officials. The proliferation of counter-productive Gay media (i.e. sexual slurs on magazine covers, quasi-pornographic images, and race-baiting headlines like "Gay Is The New Black") should also have been addressed. In my opinion, though, the most glaring omission from The Dallas Principles was this statement: The equality movement must always be conducted with dignity!

Whenever we confront the oppressor, we must do so in such a way that commands respect! That means not giving our enemies permission to speak of us with sexual slurs or think of us as crude stereotypes. It means no nudity or flamboyant costuming, no vulgar displays or self-indulgent behavior. I'm not suggesting we should turn out in business attire, but if the objective is speaking truth to power, it's not helpful if what we wear (or don't wear) gets more attention than what we say! And what we say about LGBT equality should always be serious, not peppered with "f*gsploitation" humor (got that, Max Mutchnick? Are you listening, Tom Ammiano?)!!! Inviting ridicule is not an effective way to deal with bigots!

Our role models should be the Civil Rights demonstrators of the 1960s who, despite their outrage and impatience with injustice, seldom conducted themselves in a less-than-dignified manner. The nobility they displayed turned them into international heroes. Dignity in battle: I believe this principle to be of such importance, the others are all but worthless in its absence!

Crucial omissions notwithstanding, reaction to The Dallas Principles has been mostly positive. Most people seem to think they're a step in the right direction; hundreds have already signed on to the document. The manifesto does have its detractors, though. Veteran activists Michael Petrelis, Jewelle Gomez and others denounce the Principles as an elitist attempt to take control of the Gay Rights movement. This quote taken from Petrelis's blog sums up the latter opinion:

I don't see much new in the so-called Dallas Principles . . . also, I find it somewhat arrogant that twenty-four Gay leaders (mostly from the coasts) can secretly meet in Dallas and come up with something the community is supposed to automatically buy into. Definitely not very transparent, when that's what everyone's complained about (in regard to California's) No on 8 campaign . . .

I don't know how secretive that Dallas meeting was, but its clique-ish approach to strategizing leaves much to be desired. The twenty-four participants didn't just forget to solicit input from rank-and-file LGBT folk. It was intentionally done! "We didn't seek to turn this into a convention," they claim on their FAQ page and add, with more than a hint of hauteur, that their, uh . . . convention "grew out of conversations among like-minded individuals." Of which there could only have been twenty-four? Bullsh*t! The manifesto's popularity suggests otherwise.

What was so odious about making the adoption of Principles a more inclusive effort? Couldn't there have been small-group strategy meetings staged in cities all over the country? International activists might've been invited to take part, too, and their contributions would doubtless have been invaluable. A tad more inclusiveness would've shielded this endeavor from charges of elitism. However, the drafters seem to have almost cultivated an elitist aura around themselves. Despite their lofty rhetoric about uplifting the LGBT "community", they clearly didn't want us involved in mapping out the future of our own struggle. I guess they didn't trust us enough. Or maybe "trust" isn't the correct word to use here . . . maybe I meant to say "respect"?

Yet the Dallas group assumes we trust/respect its membership, enough to let them steer our equality movement. Do we? I certainly don't! However, I do have respect for their agenda. I respect it so much, in fact, I think it should be expanded upon.

What's to stop multiple groups of twenty-four from writing their own manifestos? Why can't there be twenty-four drafting conventions staged across America? What if hundreds of like-minded people got together and brainstormed liberation strategy in every region of these United States? What if they were delegates chosen by ballot to represent each region's concerns? And what if the delegates convened in churches, symbolically reclaiming territory that's been in enemy hands for far too long?

Then, when these multiple manifestos were written, what if we gathered those documents together and merged them? (A conference committee comprised of delegates would perform the task.) What would we see in this blend of diverse voices? I think we'd see what democracy is all about, more forcefully than any Civics text could describe it. We'd see reborn the kind of resolve that produced our nation's Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Most important, we'd see with crystal clarity what it is we all really want and need from our governments, our schools, our news and entertainment media, our religious institutions, our law enforcement agencies, our health care providers, our employers, our families.

When all these LGBT manifestos had been synthesized into one coherent statement, we'd have a phenomenon like the AIDS quilt: An awesome patchwork composition that sends an incredibly compelling, unified message. No doubt the drafters of the Dallas Principles would question the need for such an endeavor; they'd complain that it was a waste of valuable time, that it undermined their efforts. I disagree. It wouldn't invalidate those efforts in any way, only refine them! Whether they realize it or not, their work needs refining! A call for sustained citizen action shouldn't be thrown together so quickly. Let's take enough time to do this job right!

I long for a list of principles that isn't just an expression of the downtown cocktail party fundraiser. It should also reflect the sensibility of the neighborhood drag bar fundraiser! In order to be workable, an LGBT liberation agenda must be truly representative; and in order to be truly representative, it must incorporate as many of our perspectives as possible. With this democratized manifesto, we'd have a grass roots agenda (remember Principle #6?) that many more of us could take personal ownership in. Ownership . . . that's a good thing, you know. If you own something, you're much more likely to maintain it!

10 June 2009

March Down Babylon (Part One)

March Down Babylon

A Gay Pride Month Feature

Lord, deliver me! There has been another "Million F*g March" in Topeka, Kansas! This second farce, like the first, purported to target that town’s most notorious citizen, the Rev. Fred Phelps. Unlike the first, it didn’t take place at the Phelps family compound. Instead, it was mounted in a park where the crazed clergyman often brandishes his infamous “God Hates F*gs” protest signs.

Chris Love, founder of the millionf*gmarch.com website, crowed to the local media about how he and his “f*gs” had struck another blow against Bible bigot terrorism. Meanwhile, Fred Phelps and his family of extremists were hundreds of miles away in Rhode Island, indulging in one of their favorite pastimes: Picketing the funeral of an American soldier! Learning about the park demonstration later that day, Phelps' daughter Shirley heaped much ridicule on it. “They need to come back when they have a million f*gs,” she sneered.

Touché! Mr. Love has yet to find anything close to a million people dumb enough to attend his marches. Last summer, 500 or so showed up. This time, only about 150 did. I suppose the diminishing numbers are something to be thankful for, but one procession of self-proclaimed perverts was already too many! How many times does he plan to recycle this sick joke?

Chris Love, Fred Phelps and Shirley Phelps-Roper deserve each other! All three are distinctly lacking in class, all three love to stage tacky publicity stunts, and all three embarrass the groups they're supposed to represent. In my opinion, Chris Love may be the worst of the three! Twisted as they are, the Phelps family members actually do believe in what they're doing. I think Love's motives are cynical and opportunistic! Dude just wants his fifteen minutes of fame (over and over again, it seems).

If he really had courage and integrity, he wouldn't be wasting resources on a senile hatemonger and his demagogue daughter, fringe elements who long ago lost credibility with the public. Instead, he'd be taking on the ones who still have power to hurt us: The big boys of the Dominionist movement! He'd be marching on Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. He'd be marching on Rick Warren's Saddleback Church. He'd be picketing the Vatican! He'd be targeting any number of popular televangelists, but he wouldn't be compromising the dignity of his marchers with a sexual slur! I think Chris Love is a glory-seeker, an ignorance enabler, and a coward. Oh, but he isn’t the only one . . . not by a long shot!

Most of us are cowards. We're so chicken-hearted, in fact, we just might be the New White Meat! What makes us so afraid? Not f*g-bashers in a dark alley. Not police harassment when we go to a bar. Not the possibility of contracting HIV. Gay Americans are terrified of the religious Right Wing!

How do I know this? I know it by the way we fail to overload email boxes when anti-Gay preachers vilify us in the media. I know it by the way we tend to melt like the rain-drenched cake from "MacArthur Park" when we debate Bible bigots. I know it by the way thousands of anti-Gay churches go picket-less every Sunday morning. I know it by the way millions of us flock like zombies to these same churches and willingly suffer psychological torture! LGBT folk have a fear of Fundamentalist religion that makes every other human phobia pale in comparison!

I was overjoyed when, in the aftermath of California's Proposition 8 decision, outraged Gay people and their allies descended in protest on Mormon temples. It was a glorious outpouring of righteous anger, but predictably, it didn't last. The Mormons began squealing about "religious persecution", and all too soon, the protesters backed off. I daresay there may still be a few of us picketing Latter Day Saints property, but a few of us just ain't gonna cut it!

We should be demonstrating in substantial numbers, outside as many Mormon churches as possible! We should be bearing down on them until they say "mercy"! But this isn't just about Mormons. The Catholics, the Baptists, the Methodists, the Presbyterians, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the COGICs, et al . . . all of them deserve besieging every weekend! Muslim and Orthodox Jewish congregations need to feel some heat, too!

Recent revelations about Prop 8 funding prove once again that Fundamentalist churches are the source of slanderous perceptions about LGBT folk. Make no mistake about it! They are the source of claims that Gay couples defile marriage. They are the source of lies about Gay adults corrupting children. They are the source of rumors that we "recruit" others into a depraved "lifestyle"!

It's Fundie preachers who liken us to murderers, rapists, thieves, prostitutes and hard drug abusers. Their mendacious doctrine is the core reason why Gay kids are bullied, Gay Boy Scouts are banned, and Gay soldiers are forced to hide their sexual orientation; why LGBT topics can't be discussed in most schools; why Gay adoption and foster-parenting is controversial; why community leaders, athletes and celebrities who are Gay cower in the closet; why Lesbian couples aren't depicted in TV commercials; why movie projects with LGBT characters and non-comedic subject matter lack for funding in Hollywood! It's why efforts to repeal DOMA and pass ENDA repeatedly stall in Congress. Worst of all, it's why hate crimes happen to us. We're being maimed and killed as a result of this demonization!

Our worst troubles can be traced back to some church pulpit or other. These so-called houses of God are anything but! Once upon a time, Babylon was a wicked city. Now, it's a wicked church, filled with twice as much evil than that fabled city ever contained!

There are hundreds of local LGBT organizations all over the United States. Their leaders know as well as you and I do how devastating Fundamentalist church oppression is. You'd expect them to devote much time and energy to protest actions that target anti-Gay clergy. The vast majority do not. Why don't they?

What's the point in calling your group a Stonewall Democratic Club if your activities don't resemble the Stonewall rebellion at all? What good does it do to make outraged public statements about Peter LaBarbera or Tony Perkins or Fred Phelps when you ignore radical Bible bigots in your own town? How can you justify putting so many resources into Pride celebrations when demonizing doctrine gets taught within a few blocks of your Gay Community Center?  Or maybe even right next door?  What are we so friggin' proud of? The way we let the religious Right shove a boot in our asses year after year?

"March Down Babylon" continues with Part Two.

March Down Babylon (Part Two)

March Down Babylon

A Gay Pride Month Feature

Our self-appointed "leadership" has failed us miserably! Look at GLAAD, an anti-defamation watchdog so co-opted by the Hollywood establishment that it endorses some of the most offensive media imaginable! Look at HRC, a group more interested in raising its political profile than in advancing equality goals! Look at inept attorneys like Shannon Minter, so afraid to litigate marriage equality at the Federal level that they urge Gay couples to gamble justice at the ballot box! Look at has-been activists like David Mixner, with nothing to offer but limited access to policymakers and warmed-over strategies for getting their attention! Look at clueless Gay clergy like the MCC's Rev. Nancy Wilson, preachers who torpedo their own uplifting messages by stigmatizing LGBT faithful as "queer Christians". It’s a stoned heartbreaker!

If I had the power to do so, I'd fire them all! How I wish I could hire new leadership! Who I'd hire may surprise you. I'd hire people who come from a solid faith tradition. People whose faith is in God and not the Bible, and who know there's a difference between the two; yet people well-versed in Scripture, savvy enough to not be intimidated by Apostle Paul-quoting Dominionists! People intelligent enough to know that neither the story of Sodom and Gomorrah nor Paul's prohibitions against sexual perversion have anything to do with those of us Jesus Christ called eunuchs who have been so from birth (Matthew 19:12). People who, unlike our current "leaders", don't hesitate to make a strong moral case for LGBT rights!

I want leadership that knows a Civil Rights struggle is more concerned with morality than with politics! I want leaders who neither address nor refer to me with insulting names! I want leaders who can't be seduced or cowed by power brokers. I want leaders who are as infuriated by anti-Gay religious doctrine as abolitionists were by slavery and freedom marchers were by segregation; and I don't give a damn if these leaders are Gay, Lesbian, Pansexual, Transsexual or heterosexual! All I care about is that they're committed 100% to two objectives: Achieving full equality for God's LGBT children, and reclaiming Christianity from those who've perverted its meaning! These objectives are intimately connected in my mind; I don't believe they can be realized separately.

These leaders of faith must march us into battle against the religious Right Wing! For what it's worth, here's my idea for a battle plan: In every city, we should identify the worst anti-Gay clergy and picket their damn churches on a rotating basis every weekend! We don't want meager turnouts, either: There should be at least 100 people at every protest, LGBT folk and/or allies. We should schedule participants ahead of time, and have alternates who stand in when the regulars can't make it. Only in the most inclement of weather should these protests be postponed!

I'm not talking about the standard kind of protest march, though. I don't feature folks walking in circles with placards on their shoulders, and somebody yelling through a bullhorn. The media isn't much interested in that kind of thing, either. It's become a bore! Action news crews are only too familiar with those played-out tactics by now. They rate a few seconds of coverage, if that much. We've got to offer reporters something more exciting, a real production that piques their interest. We need a fresh approach to picketing! We also need something that will challenge heterosexist clergy in the most direct manner possible.

So why don't we turn every church protest into a church service? Each one could last about two hours, just like regular church services do. Let's have singing! Let's have testifying! Let's have down-home preaching! We could call these actions "counter-sermons", inspirational messages that counter the hateful rhetoric spoken inside the churches we picket. We'd be contrasting that rhetoric with the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, and giving believers a choice of services to attend: Fundamentalist or Liberationist!

To accomplish this goal, we'd want to identify the most charismatic ministers allied to our movement and enlist their aid. When I say charismatic, I don't just mean good speakers. I mean phenomenal speakers! The kind who bring assemblies to their feet shouting and crying. We'd ask them to forfeit one or more weekends preaching at their own churches to come and preside over an anti-Gay church protest. We could pass the collection plate on site and offer them modest payment for their services.

Sermons are just part of the package, though! At these protests, we'd want some of the LGBT attendees to share their discrimination horror stories. Most of us have such stories to tell. They're powerful examples of the harm that's done when religion goes wrong. I daresay much of the Straight public hasn't got a clue about what we go through! This would be our chance to give them a clue. These kinds of personal histories wouldn't be unusual in a church setting: In many African-American congregations, there’s no such thing as worship services where members of the flock don't give testimony!

There's no such thing as worship services without a choir, either. The Mormons may have their massive Tabernacle Choir, but we have our many Gay Men's Choruses! We could really put their talents to use at counter-sermons. However, their repertoire would need to be tailored to the event. No solemn, stately hymns allowed! Nothing stiff-backed and proper. We'd want those choruses singing say-amen-somebody kind of music: Thomas Dorsey Gospel standards, rousing anthems, vintage freedom songs from the Civil Rights era, and Progressive selections from the songbooks of Pete Seeger, Holly Near, Sweet Honey In The Rock, Harry Belafonte and the like.

I suspect every Gay Men's Chorus has somebody in it who can wail like Aretha Franklin or Luther Vandross! We'd need those folks out front, leading the choruses and doing occasional solos. In the event nobody in the group was Gospel-trained, the preacher could often substitute, or somebody from the community known for their singing ability. Wherever you find Lesbians, Gay men, Pansexual and Transfolk gathered, there'll always be vocal talent on tap! After all, doesn't the Book of Revelations say we're destined to be singers for the Lord?

Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with Him 144,000 who had His name and His Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever He goes. They were purchased from among mankind and offered as first fruits to God and the Lamb.

Of course, we'd want musicians on hand; canned music at rallies is verboten! Nothing elaborate, though: An acoustic guitar or two, maybe drums and/or bass, a tambourine, a harmonica or portable keyboard every now and then. In a pinch, musical accompaniment could consist of just a tambourine player and chorus members clapping hands. The chorus and musicians could be paid out of the collection plate as well. What about some inspirational dancers, too? Those are all the rage in churches nowadays. I think counter-sermon protests could potentially accommodate all kinds of creative expression. Lord knows, there are plenty of creative people among us!

Last but not least, our protesters should make a bold visual statement with their mode of dress. The theme is obvious: What's the symbol of LGBT identity? It's the Rainbow flag! Coincidentally (or not), rainbows also happen to be the symbol of God's Holy Covenant with humankind (Genesis 9:15, 16). So rainbow stoles, the kind worn by Rev. Troy Perry and other MCC clergy, should be a wardrobe necessity for all preachers, musicians and chorus members, attendees should sport rainbow bandannas, and a huge rainbow flag should fly over every church protest. The image of Jesus Christ should be on prominent display as well!

"March Down Babylon" concludes with Part Three.