10 June 2009

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.

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