Saturday, February 23, 2008

Heterosexuality is not normal

[photo: Amy Chong, Santa Barbara Independent]
The sad, sad story of Lawrence King's murder, blogged on here February 14th, is featured in today's New York Times and also in this story in the Santa Barbara Independent:
The death of Lawrence King was a wake-up call to the community not only about gay rights, but about the morals and values our youth hold — or perhaps, lack. In a press release on February 12, State Senator Sheila Kuehl (D-23) stated, “This killing also raises a larger concern, because the danger that loomed over Lawrence King still threatens other students, and we must raise our voices to be sure that no more lives are lost and no more communities are so devastated.” Beyond merely preventing violence for those who do not fit into the mold, we need to address the acceptance of differences.
A government study reports 97 percent of all youth report hearing anti-gay remarks in public schools. It’s not surprising that youth throw around words like “gay” with negative connotation when no one is stepping forward to stop them. Likewise, the teasing of classmates for dress, financial status, gender, and physical appearance continues as usual.
We can’t continue pointing fingers. For youth to truly think about all of these issues, a speech by the principal is not going to make the connection. People — and in particular, youth — need to be in an environment where acceptance is consistently the norm.
And that challenge needs to be made not only to our schools ... but to our churches AND to our Communion. The full inclusion of all the baptized into the Body of Christ is not some "issue" we should get around to when we get all the other "real" concerns of the church taken care of. It is staring us in the face in the faces of the strangers at the gate who do not hear from the church the message that they are loved, they are welcome, they are NEEDED to make the church the whole people of God it is called to be.
The church that promises to respect the dignity of every human being every time it renews its baptismal vows should be challenging the culture to become that "environment where acceptance is consistently the norm" -- not copping to the culture's bigotry and bias against LGBT people.
The Episcopal Church has a unique, gifted opportunity to make this case from a faith-based platform, grounded firmly in the Scriptures we read, the Tradition we claim and the Reason we apply to the challenges before us. And I believe it is our call to do precisely that.
It is long past time for us to stop allowing the schismatics among us "spin" the issue of LGBT inclusion as an issue that will split the church (it will not) -- and to claim it instead as an opportunity that will grow it. Not only in numbers -- as we reach out to those yearning to raise their children and live their lives in an environment of love, tolerance and inclusion -- but in witness: as we model for the culture WJWD (What Jesus WOULD Do!) -- as we live out baptismal promises as Christ's Body in the world.


edav38 said...

THANK YOU Susan for that. It is Necessary that we NOT sit back and let HRC or other organizations take the "Front Seat" in this issue.

While the younger generations are moe accepting of GLBT's, there are also those of those generations that are even Less accepting as well.

We cannot get it in the schools, very often, but in our churches, it is paramount that we educate all Parishioners to the NEED of Love and acceptance of All of God's children.

Children are more often than not looked upon as somehow Less than adults, because they cannot vote, often drive, hold Careers, et al,. Because of this, they are Often left out of the Need to teach acceptance to, and this is Proven out in the Bullying and Bashing that goes on in All Schools, regardless of "No Tolerance" policies.

We may disagree on many issues, but we will Forever agree that children need the education necessary to teach tolerance of All of God's Children, not just the older of us.

Unknown said...

Susan, too often we hear that the youth of today are more accepting of LGBT people. Perhaps this is a sign that they are not as accepting as we thought. Perhaps the one who pulled the trigger is now the poster child of uneducated youth and what "normal" truly is. Often times children are the reflection of their environments (we all are). There is too much violence. And yet I can't help but take note that every time the church limits someone for being LGBT another soul is taken. When one is refused for holy orders because of one's sexual orientation or gender identity, when a same-gender couple can not be wed (or even come forward for an anniversary blessing), the Church is then taking on responsibility for the wounds and death of the souls it is limiting. We've come a long way in our society - but we still have a long way to go in educating our public, our church, our government on sexual orientation and gender identity. The time is now and we need our straight allies to stand up and speak out and the time is now! We can not stand by and watch another Lawrence King die for the sake of ignorance. It is time to rally and speak OUT LOUDLY and, by God, be heard.

Jim Costich said...

I am the gay adoptive father of a gay son who is also multiracial, and wheelchair bound. I adopted him when he was 3yrs. old. He's now 20 and a junior at Niagara University. He was one of the founders of a Gay-Straight Alliance at his High School, and a member of our local Youth Group which now has about 300 members. I know a little bit about the subject. If you remember beatings, gang rapes and sexual assaults by straights in locker rooms/showers, public humiliations and living in fear as a gay kid/adult in the 70's and 80's know this; it's worse now. This kind of violent bigotry was shameful twenty years ago but it has a champion today whose name is Christianity. Under the influence of this champion every type of violence has increased against GLBT youth including political movements to prevent hate crimes legislation at the local, state and federal levels. It's not just that physical and psychological violence is tolerated. It is promoted with the claim that it's prevention or punishment violates Christian's rights to practice their religion. Social intollerance to the point of killing children as a religious right, because it has become a religious rite.

According to 2006 reports by the National Coalition for the Homeless, and the NGLTF 42% of the homeless are GLBT youth ranging in age from 12-18. The average coming out age is now 13 and 1/4 of GLBT kids who come out to their parents are thrown to the street where they are not rescued. These reports were backed up by another report done last year, I wish I could remember the source.

Imagine trying to put their rescue on your Diocese list of tasks let alone the national church.

When I try to tell people in my community why I'm a Christian they only listen when I insist it's ok because I'm an Episcopalian. But they gently remind me that even the Episcopal church isn't championing justice for God's Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered people. It is fighting over whether God wants them to hate us. Last summer during a discussion about spirituality at a gay men's naturist retreat I was told, "We all search for every way and place to be close to God, but you're not going to find God in a church. You can go there to show them bigotry is wrong, but you've got to have a place/people to be close to God. You're delusional if you think that's it." Wow. I told him my congregation was different and it is. St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene really is full of wonderful Christians - not heinous haters who throw away all Christian principles the minute you say, "Gay". But just to the east I find an Episcopal diocese whose treatment of GLBT people is more like the Asseblies of God (Pentacostal) than the Espiscopal Church.

Staying in the Christian church, even if you are an Episcopalian is not something to be proud of in my community. Christian is no longer a synonym for love, justice, brother/sisterhood or any other good thing. Gay children slaughtered in hate are seen as a product of "religious bigotry" more than anything else.

Only God can rectify that through our efforts. We may be the brakes on a run away train of hate named the Church.

the Reverend boy said...


Daniel Weir said...

Those who claim that this issure will split the Episcopal Church often point to those who have left or are leaving as proof that they are right. By that argument virtually every change that has been made in the Episcopal Church,from local changes like the color of the Guild Room, to more global issues like the revision of the Hymnal, has "split" the Episcopal Church. People leave for all sorts of reasons and we should never let the prospect of folks leaving keep us from acting on our convictions.

Richard said...

Perhaps we should considered the models of prophetic action demonstrated by martin Luther King, Jr. and Saul Alinsky. Both ignored heirarchies. They just organized spontaneous groups and did it! They acted without getting permission from those above or those below. Did they get into trouble? Oh yes! Big time: attacks, jail, even death. But in a relatively short time it worked. If we start treating lgbts equally, we ordain them, we bless their unions and we elect tem bishops. We do not check in with anyone. We that make trouble? Oh yes. There will be attacks, there will be presentments, and there may be even death as witness that of Lawrence King.
Richard Taliaferro
Trinity Episcopal Church

Curious George said...

I was struck during the initial reporting of this story by the local police and school spokespersons' saying that there was a "personal conflict" between the victim and his killer. This points to a kind of ethical myopia to which we--liberals as often as anyone else--often fall prey when we look on situations of oppression or victimization and misread them as simply "ugly conflict," thereby placing the victim on the same footing with the victimizer.

In the words of Arbp. Desmond Tuto, "If you say you are neutral in a situation of oppression, you are on the side of the oppressor. If an elephant is standing on the tail of a mouse and you say you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality."

Muthah+ said...

I have a situation in my parish in which a younger boy was molested by an older boy because the older boy believed because the parents of the younger boy were lesbians" that he could get away with it. No body would do anything for a couple of lesbian's kid.

The older boy because he is 18 is facing as much as 30 years in prison now. The little town is beginning to split over who is right and who is wrong.

The fight is far from over.

Paul (A.) said...

Why should we pretend that we don't know what Jesus would do? We know exactly what He did: He looked to the centurion's faith rather than to the fact that his beloved was another man (Luke 7:2-10).

For us to do otherwise is not Christian. Period.

RonF said...

It's not just that physical and psychological violence is tolerated. It is promoted with the claim that it's prevention or punishment violates Christian's rights to practice their religion.

lilbearsings, let's see you back up the assertion that physical violence (we won't bog down with a definition of "psychological violence") against homosexuals is promoted with the claim that to prevent or punish it is a violation of Christian's religious freedom.

RonF said...

... martin Luther King, Jr. and Saul Alinsky. Both ignored heirarchies.

I don't know much about Saul Alinsky (to my shame, being a Chicago area resident and all), but I believe that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. certainly made use of the churches in the black and other communities.

RonF said...

Paul (a.):

I've just re-read Luke 7:2-10 in 4 different translations on-line. What do you mean by "beloved" in this context?

Bill B said...

Padre Tom,
I do respectfully bed to differ. Kids ARE more accepting of LGBT people. Yes, we still have a long way to go, especially as this young martyr shows us, but I was highly encouraged by a recent experience.

I am a disability rights activist, and also a part-time teacher at a local Catholic parochial school (in Oregon, 8th graders). We are doing a a series on respect for life and human dignity. After news of this event, I wanted to poll the class to gauge their reactions. I asked how many of them thought, in the context of a committed, civil union (or marriage), that homosexuality was a sin. Only two children out of 23 raised their hands. One was a Baptist, and the other Mormon. The rest of the class, about half Catholic, and the other half mainline Protestants, did not think it was a sin.

Also, I recently saw a poll on MTV's Rock the Vote of evangelical college students, asking them what they thought the top issues in the current presidential elections should be. Gay marriage didn't even make the top five!

My take on this is that violence and peer pressure are terrible concerns in our schools, and while kids are more accepting of LGBT couples, the ones that are not are more likely to react violently. Back was I was a high schooler (in the 80s) no one would ever think to bring a gun to school! Fisticuffs were the norm. But then again, I do remember one of my best friends, who was gay, on the receiving end of a lot of bloody noses and black eyes.

I agree, as a straight person, with everyone here who says the church needs to be a model of acceptance and inclusion for the rest of society. And the schismatics can go off and pout under an alternate primate. But I do have hope for generation Y and Z.

Bill B.