Victory, spoils, and the aftermath of the Gay Wars

Relative to last time’s A gay reader confronts a Catholic bishop in an airport, I yesterday got in the below interesting perspective from Jon Hatch. Jon has a Master’s of Philosophy in post-conflict reconciliation studies (via this program at Trinity College Dublin) and is currently entering the final phase of his Ph.D. of Theology.

My training in post-conflict studies helps me put a lot of this [crap] into context—not to approve or rationalize it, but to understand the emotions and feelings from which it arises. Basically, after a war or a conflict there’s a period of transition into a new form of stability. Those who lost the conflict, or at least are now on the short end of it, are incredibly vulnerable. They feel lost and frightened, not knowing what the future holds for them under the new regime. What the new regime must do is make assurances that the losers will be treated equitably. (This almost never happens unless the victors get a lot of help and are really held to account by the international community. Victors are much more inclined to just do away with their enemies, to further marginalize and oppress them.)

The Gay Wars are just about over. They are entering their final phase. And not to put too fine a point on it, but we on the side of full gay equality have won. And the losers are really scared. How will they fare under the new regime? Are we going to force them to do things they don’t want? Marry people they don’t want to marry? Make them teach in their schools things they don’t want to teach? Of course we won’t do any those things. But this post-conflict transition will nonetheless be as unhappy and messy a process as every other one.

We’re all raw and exhausted from the war (and in pockets of course a lot of the war continues). We have lost so many loved ones, watched them be destroyed by forces that should have loved and protected them. The forces within the Church are losing this war incredibly ungraciously, stupidly and, frankly, cruelly. That often happens. The end of wars is often incredibly cruel and vicious. (On YouTube see, for example, the film Der Untergang, about the final days of the Third Reich).

But we must win this war graciously, intelligently, without malice or vengeance. We must dream of better. We must work for better. A better Church: the Church of St. Gregory, St. Teresa, Catholic Workers, the nuns of El Salvador, of the Solentiname community, of Fr. Gerry, James Allison, the Worker priests of France, Taize, Oscar Romero, and others who show us what true love and sacrifice for the weak really looks like.

Our Church exists in the midst of the Vatican’s. But there are so many more of us out here than there are priests and prelates walking the hallowed halls of the Vatican.

Christ assures us that the very gates of hell will not stand against us. The Kingdom of God, he tells us, is within us. And thanks be to God for that.


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  • Tillich says “The first duty of love is to listen.”

    To listen means to be still, to wait and to have no expectations about what we are going to hear or how we are going to weigh it or act on it. As angry as I have been with some folks over these last few weeks I have reminded myself its my job to love and that means to listen. Fears heard are often less terrifying just for having been said out loud.

  • thank you John for sharing, this comes at a perfect time for some of my friends.

  • Dave Bowling

    What a great ‘high rode’ take on this present social conflict. I, for one, do not desire to bury anyone that differs in opinion from me, but I really would like to see some equality and understanding that all people are the same in God’s viewpoint … i.e. We all sin and fail, but no one worse than another. Thus, He loves us all and wishes the best for each of us because of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. But this perspective is difficult to maintain when I often feel oppressed or maligned by those religious folks that believe they are right and everyone else that disagrees with them are wrong. I just have a problem when anyone that tells my that my love for someone of the same gender is a sin … I just do not see any biblical support for that point of view.

    But I must agree with the perspective – they are very scared of what this might mean to them and their form of reality and beliefs. So sorry they feel so threatened – but that is what their system has done to so many for so many years.

  • Tim

    Yes. Progress is inevitable, both civilly and religiously. What we can’t do is villify those who we defeat. Those things never work in society, and in fact the war never ends. This kind of back-stabbing is what led to the split between Sunni and Shi’a Islam, the Orthodox and Catholic churches (at least as far a being in communion went) and in politics most recently happened in Iraq and Afghanistan and is happening in some way in Libya, Egypt and Syria. The people who ruled were thrown out of or fear being thrown out of society at large, and so fight tooth and nail. If we could express that we mean the people on the other side no harm and won’t bother them, the war would end that much sooner.

  • Allie

    I think his basic point is sound, but he’s a bit premature. When states vote in favor of gay rights instead of universally against them, that will be the turning point. We can see the victory from where we are – there are more people in favor of gay marriage than against it, but they skew young and disproportionately don’t vote – but we are still not winning yet. And being conciliatory to people who are still winning isn’t the way to go about it.

  • Paula

    Thank you for pursuing this topic, John, and Jon. Just the last couple of weeks I’ve been feeling sick — overdosed on the ChikFilA debate on top of the mountain of posts following the major denominational meetings this summer, most of which were torn apart by debates about gay acceptance. And with a whole election season to look forward to, complete with its culture wars . . . I’m weary, and wonder if my engagement has been good for me, or all that good for the cause. Of course, withdrawal and silence at the expense of our gay brothers and sisters wouldn’t feel so good either. But I’m worn out, and wonder what that’s telling me. John makes me laugh, but I wonder if there isn’t a deeper, more soulful way to think about these times and to live through them.

    I think I’m polite when I’m talking or writing with someone who thinks differently than me, but I can still feel the adrenaline, and the way my jaw sets. Is that the way its gotta be?

  • Sharla

    A lot of the time historians, looking back at a conflict, will name as the “turning point” an event that, at the time, may not have seemed quite so significant. The turning point comes at a time when victory appears by no means assured.

    What will it be in this case? We really won’t be able to say before we can look at this conflict through the long lens of history. But I suspect it’ll be something like when the President spoke in favor of marriage equality. It might have come from even a less likely source, like the similar statement from former Vice President Cheney (who cannot by any criteria be called liberal).

    I think the turning point has already taken place. History is on our side now.

  • Joy Morene via Facebook

    Good article. Anger is frequently the major emotion behind fear and I frequently forget that. If you approach people by remembering their fear it makes it easier to connect with them.

  • Heidi Stabb via Facebook

    Like someone else said, I think this comes too early, particularly for queer Christians. The “war” (not sure I like that term but accepting it for the purposes of comment) is no where NEAR over within the church. And while for many the aim is wholly secular acceptance, for others it is also about acceptance within our community of faith.

    In my own experiences, queer Christians are still being required to be grateful for each tiny crumb of acceptance that accidentally falls off the table: we’re still being told – implicitly at least – that we’re not really beloved of God, because we’re not allowed to be married, or be clergy while partnered, and okay some of us have slipped through the loopholes but that really wasn’t MEANT to happen, and by the way, your existence is painful to others, and the most important thing is not to cause pain to anyone. Oh, except you, because you’re queer and therefore deserve/can cope with pain/don’t actually matter. And I’m not even talking about American evangelical churches: I’m part of an Australian mainstream-to-progressivish church (even though most people in it would squeal at the thought of being thought progressive.)

  • Karen Miller

    I think the author has over-simplified the problem. He may be referring to resolution with the Chuch but with regard to the general population as a whole, gays are never going to win the “Gay War”. Yes, there has been progress but the progress has come through the legal system. The religious right has not given up and they never will. They may be forced to live in a city/state/country that supports gay rights but that doesn’t mean they will agree with it. They will never concede.

    The “Gay War” will never even come close to resolution in many areas in the south. There are places that still fly the confederate flag. Places that are still very racist. Slavery was over a long time ago but there are still people who think a black person is not equal to a white person. These people aren’t going to change. There is no progress with new generations. The hatred of everyone not white or not Christian is pervasive.

    In my opinion, the religious right does not want or feel the need for resolution. They believe they are following the word of God. You can’t dialog with these people. Their brains freeze up and their mouths start flapping. They have tunnel vision with regard to anything that challenges their fundamental beliefs. I don’t think they’re afraid. If anything, they are more resolute in their convictions. Look at how many ‘Christians’ came out and supported Chic-Fil-A. They weren’t afraid. They were enthusiastically supporting a man who helps fund a hate group.

    I don’t mean to sound so fatalistic but we’re talking about a country that still has rampant descrimination. A country that still considers women and people of colour as less than equal. Throw Christianity into the equation and you have self-righteous discrimination. That war will never be over.

  • DR

    This is lovely. I feel the same way.

  • DR

    The comments on this blog are so provocative and inspiring. They change me (for the better).

  • Al

    Considering that we as gay people don’t want anything more than to be treated as equals it’s hard to see why we’re the source of so much anger and hatred anyway. I don’t have any problems with being gracious in victory, should this “war” ever end, since that’s kind of the point.

    Unfortunately, it’s hard to see the other side putting down their weapons and accepting that they’ve lost, since they’re the ones who took up arms in the first place. Despite what they might argue, there will never be a day when primary school children will be educated about same-sex relationships and there will definitely never be a time when churches will be required to perform gay weddings. None of that is even on the table for negotiations when it comes to advocating for equal rights for gay and lesbian people.

    More than likely, we’ll go through a prolonged period of adjustment where the losing side (bigots and the ill-informed) will continue to feed their resentment and pass it on to their children and the rest of us will adapt to the new reality. In other words, this will probably play out the way race relations did with the end of segregation.

    Sadly, some people will feel aggrieved, even though they haven’t actually lost anything. The times just changed and they didn’t change with them.

  • David S

    Karen – I don’t wholly disagree with you, but I do know formerly anti-gay Christians who have changed their minds. I know that sometimes the conservative ideology seems impenetrable, but blocs are made up of people. And people come around. I really believe that. I must have faith that God is working in all of our lives; even in the lives of those who wish me harm. . So I’m loathe to condemn all anti-gay Christians as unable to change. And while I agree that anti-gay people may be with us for generations to come, I have hope that the war gets downgraded to a skirmish (or a really bad playground brawl…a boy can hope).

  • Matt

    I think the letter-writer has some really great points, but “the Gay Wars” are far from over.

    In my home state, my partner and I conservatively estimate that it will be 5 years before same-sex marriage is legalized. We know it will probably be longer. It is legal to fire me from my job for being openly LGBTQ. Trans people’s rights are about 10 years behind mainstream gay rights. Trans people still have a suicide rate 50% higher than the national average, are still murdered, and are still turned out of their homes at horrifying rates.

    I have no interest in being the “victor” of a “war”. I just want to marry my partner, have children, build my career, and practice my faith. I don’t see the religious right as my enemy. They just exhaust, flabbergast, and annoy me.

    Presenting this as some kind of holy war paints everything in too much black and white when there’s so much gray we’ve got 50 shades of it (see what I did there?). I am neither a helpless victim nor a paladin of light, but a person. That’s all I’m aiming for here, to be treated like a person.

    But on the subject of treating the “loser” well, my parents actually gave me a definition of forgiveness I really like. They said it’s not like you’re forgiving the person for sinning, but rather saying to them: “I give up the right to punish you, physically, mentally, or emotionally.”

    I’ll never forget the things that were done to LGBTQ people by the religious right and bigots. But now, and after all this is over, I won’t punish them. They’ll learn to live with the consequences.

  • Dave Bowling

    Thanks DR … I may have a few misspelled words in there (oops – so much for my big thumbs), but your comment just made my evening since I have observed your many well stated comments for some time on this blog and hold you in high regard.

  • Lymis

    Never is a long time.

    No, this isn’t going to happen next week. And it will take at least a generation, probably several, growing up, growing old, and dying with at least legal and nominal equality in place before it’s no big deal. To some degree, gay people will probably be always some form of “other” – but no, I don’t agree with you that there is no progress or that this isn’t already changing and changing hugely.

    Just the progress I’ve seen in my lifetime has been staggering – when I was born, sodomy was criminal in all 50 US states, and police routinely raided gay bars, usually violently. It was illegal to mail anything that discussed homosexuality.

    Now, while it’s by no means perfect, the US Supreme Court has recognized gay people’s right to our private relationships without government interference, and the cases headed to the Court are likely to radically improve things legally. One major political party is seriously considering putting marriage equality in its formal national platform. Gay characters are commonplace on TV and in movies, and despite what you say, the upcoming generation is far more okay with gay people than their parents’ generation.

    It is getting better, and faster than many of us believed. That snowball is well and truly headed down the mountain, and the villagers at the bottom can see it coming.

  • David S

    Dave – God knows I feel like I am constantly defending myself in the religious community. God knows I feel like I am under attack. But I’m really uncomfortable with the victor/loser paradigm. Isn’t that what is so broken in our Church, in our political system, and in our broader culture? It seems antithetical to Jesus’ commandment to love one another.

    I’m sure that I don’t know what the alternative paradigm is, but your grace-filled comment reflects it beautifully. Thanks for that.

  • Lymis

    I’m not sure it is premature. Using language that implies the “war” is over and all that is left is being nice to the losers may send something of the wrong idea, but I certainly see the shift from unthinking privilege and prejudice to fear and confusion.

    It really isn’t all that long ago that the social consensus was that queers were sick perverts and dangers to ourselves and others. Now that isn’t the case – and those fighting against equality are finding they have no legs to stand on but fear and bigotry, and they know it, and it scares them.

    I don’t think the call is to be conciliatory. The call is not to be retaliatory.

  • Jill

    So true DR. I learn something here every day now, and it makes me see myself more clearly every day. For the better and…the not so much.

  • Al

    When all we’re asking for is to be treated the same as everyone else (not special but the same) there really isn’t anything to be retaliatory with. When this gets settled legally, gay people won’t have special rights, just the same ones as everyone else. That will offend those who believe we’re depraved and ungodly but, over time, others may see that we’re no different than they are. If there’s a victory to be celebrated it will be that.

  • Jill

    I don’t know Paula, but if you stumble across an answer, a way to not feel this level of angry flowing just under the surface–please share it. I for one could use some constructive encouragement about the space outside John’s blog.

  • Jill

    I hear what you’re saying Joy, but my fear hiding underneath my anger is about why a large cross-section of people fear what is deemed different, other. A populace motivated through fear creates a culture of cruelty. If I’m honest I’m sometimes afraid of what is mainstream because of what it can represent. Yet I have to suck it up and live in the real world.

    It may be harsh, but to people who react in fear (rather than curiosity) to what is different to them– get over it. Grow up. Or get out of the way.

  • Inspiring, but I’d have to say that in some ways, the conflict will never be over, just because it seems to me that no conflict is *ever* over entirely. If you expect everyone to totally love and cuddle you just because you’ve managed to obtain demand basic human and legal rights… well, you really shouldn’t expect that. Such people may fade ever more into the background, but they never really go away.

    What I mean is, reading this topic and comments on it, I had a flashback to an uncle of mine. In many ways, he is a good man… funny, a good husband and a good uncle – also, don’t expect me to start arguments with a big bear of a man who *hunts* bears even as he hobbles around on a prosthetic leg. Some of the commentary he’s made around my mother and me? Racist as shit. He’s an older fellow, but not old enough for most people to expect stuff like that. His “kind” has largely lost their power, and I’ve never heard him say anything murderous – just really bad jokes that be-lie an attitude I find abhorrent. I’m pretty sure he keeps his shit to himself in mixed company and it only comes out among close family… but… you know… even “faded into the background” this stuff is going to exit, sad as it is, even in otherwise “basically/outwardly decent” people.

  • Jill

    Yes Matt, and I sometimes have to comfort myself with the thought that I would much rather be aware, angry and unsettled as I am by the legal discrimination that we see all around than continue to be judgmentally oblivious and part of the problem while ‘in the service of the Lord’ as I once was.

    At least now my feelings are honest, and my conscience not hindered by my own actions. I remember from the old days sometimes that ‘it’s not easy being fundy’. It’s definitely not easy being that closed off and unplugged from humanity.

  • We may win the war with society, but it will be longer before the conservative parts of the church come around. The fact that in this day and age a church leader can push his congregation into not conducting a mixed-race marriage shows that there are still some spiritual troglodytes around.

  • Having said that, I encourage “us” to take the high road while protecting our gains. To be honest, I don’t want to be married in most of their churches or teach their children in Sunday school or sit on their church boards. It would be nice to have the option, but I have that option even if not in all churches.

  • DR

    I’m humbled by everyone’s contributions on this blog, it’s really something. xoxo

  • Melody

    Exactly. I am one of them. Don’t assume it’s hopeless for those who are anti-gay. I am proof that people do change their minds.

  • Brian

    “spiritual troglodytes”


  • charles

    thats a really challenging thing- I am very excited about it, but at the same time feel very much inclined towards caution in the realm of reconciliation for those who claim Christ as their savior and are having to re-learn a substantial amount of doctrine regarding marriage definition and rights-.

    I would love to say that there will be awesome dancing in the streets- but I see a considerable darkness and schism in the body of Christ over the issue. it sort of reminds me of the scripture Matthew 10-16…. ” I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

  • Allie

    Retaliatory how?

    It’s not like the end of ww1, there is nothing to demand, there’s no treaty of Versailles, there is nothing harmful that can possibly happen. Gay people WON’T demand that straight people all turn gay. They couldn’t do anything to hurt conservatives if they wanted to, and they don’t want to. The worst that can possibly happen, what it seems like we’re being asked when we are asked not to punish the poor scaredey-bigots, is that someone might speak to them not so politely. Oh the humanity!

    I have an elderly relative who died recently who was a teacher at the time schools were integrated. She took early retirement because she refused to teach n-words. You know what terrible terrible things happened to her life after integration? She got old and stayed mean and she died. No black people ever held her down and molested her. Her fears could not have been laid to rest by black people being super polite because her fears were never about black people to begin with. They were about her meanness, and they were cured by her death.

  • Love Thy Enemy – the ultimate conflict resolution strategy.

  • ****** I’m weary, and wonder if my engagement has been good for me, or all that good for the cause. Of course, withdrawal and silence at the expense of our gay brothers and sisters wouldn’t feel so good either. But I’m worn out, and wonder what that’s telling me*******

    It’s telling you to take time for yourself. Let your spirit rest from it. Your “work”, in whatever form, has made a difference, to whatever degree. Keep in mind the HUGE difference in the fact that you were actually able to do it without being jailed or totally shunned or even beaten and killed. There was a time that wasn’t so. Yes, it still happens but, generally speaking, we know longer live in fear. We know longer have to hide. We can say, as I have to my evangelical type siblings, “The rules have changed. Now I’m telling you how it’s gonna be.” What a remarkable change that is.

    I was a dedicated activist writer in our regional newspaper thru the 90’s and a bit into the 00’s. I (along with my no longer partner who left me and the cause for Orthodox Catholic religious glories of suffering and self denial !!!) wrote numerous guest columns and uncounted Opinion letters, held out signs against DADT, spoke on radio and even had a TV spot in our home, got the local headlines, all without being flamboyant and snarky. No one could gainsay us. We did it with rational thought, knowledge of the issues and firm confidence in our rightness. We were THE out gay couple in the entire region. There were other known gays and gay couples being quietly gay and even out to their immediate social and professional circles, but we were the only public activists and as such, actually more respected by the str8 community than the gays who thought of us as interlopers and out of bounds. I think they feared we threatened their closets. I know we changed things because the religiously motivated newspaper detractors began to go silent. We simply never let them get away with their crap. We talked back until they quit. Locally, we blew the controversy wide open and kept it up til it pretty well blew over. But my partner, raised Catholic, alter boy, the whole nine yards, never could find resolution. He DID get tired and fled back into the “safety” of the even darker hole of Catholic Orthodoxy where he gets all the “safe” answers and none of the challenges.

    Now, I am retired and haven’t written anything for several years. The impulse remains and finds outlets in online commenting, (and I’m planning a book) and I have wondered too, if it was good for me. There was a great cost of my own energy for myself and my own worldly “success”, but now I know it was worth it; in part, because I was told by two of my former partners that my love saved them from suicide. I am resting……and watching others come up behind me everywhere in the world, and making it happen. I have become content knowing I can’t do it all. It takes us all and we are millions, and the Spirit is speaking.

    Rest. You are not alone. There are others coming up from the reserves; the fresh troops who, if you think about it, have learned from you. To whatever individual degree, we paved their way. And they are running with the baton, with the occasional stumbles, but generally very nicely. A time may come again for you to do whatever….in maybe a new and different way…..with renewed energy. Then you will be ready for it.

    To everything there is a season.

  • otter

    I want some of what this writer is smoking. Why?

    Read up on the Romney-Ryan ticket is likely to mean for us in the US . How about the “Kill the Gays” mentality in Iran or Uganda, the prohibition on “gay propaganda” in Russia? I could go on, and on and on……….now is the time for determination.

    I think we’d be crazy to reassure those who oppress us that we’ll play dead whike they continue to poison the culture we live in.

  • vj

    “I don’t think they’re afraid.”

    But they *are* afraid – they’re afraid of God. They don’t understand love and grace and mercy and forgiveness and the righteousness that is ours through Jesus. God is love, and perfect love casts out all fear – but misunderstanding God/love creates more fear.

    They’re afraid that if they don’t believe the ‘right’ things and say the ‘right’ things and do the ‘right’ things and associate with the ‘right’ people then they will be rejected by God. Yes, in the face of opposing views they become more resolute in their convictions – because their underlying belief is that “if I just follow all the rules then I’ll be good enough for God; if I ‘stand up to be counted’ then I can prove to God that I am worthy”.

  • dan(Chicago)

    Yeah, not sure we are quite there yet. Even in Chicago, which is quite liberal, most gay couples know where they can hold hands(not many) and where they cannot — something straight couples would never have to think about.

  • I’m sorry to be a stinker here, but this letter is one of the most depressing things I’ve seen in a while. The culture war might be waning in some parts of the country, but here in the Southeast, we’re still smack-dab in the middle of it. In a time where more than half of the country doesn’t even have basic protections for LGBT people, it’s the apex of absolute ignorance to presume that this struggle is anywhere even close to being “over.”

    We still have to do what we can to reach the people on the right, but our work to take hold of our basic human rights can NEVER be a polite request. They are not rights that could just be given to us, please, sir. They are OUR rights and we must fight to have them recognized.

    The “war” was never really a war in the first place. It was an attempt at eradication; a form of cultural genocide. The other side has fought tooth and nail to have us simply erased from existence. Hate groups like the AFA and FRC have an incredible amount of influence still, and we must expose their lies on a regular basis. We are not fighting to eradicate them — we are fighting for them to STOP DEHUMANIZING US.

    It’s a struggle that must be waged on two fronts: First to find reconciliation with those who will listen, and to stand firm against the lies, deception, and fiery attacks from the hate groups who are working to eradicate us.

    No, sir. It’s NOT over. Not even close.

  • Russell Corbett via Facebook

    Well said. The only thing worse than a sore loser is an arrogant, smug, taunting winner. We must be gracious so they see beyond a doubt how wrong they were.

  • Christy


  • Jill

    Hi otter, not to get into too much political stuff (esp. on a religious/spiritual blog…because I might implode), but I’m from Wisconsin– Ryan’s state of origin.

    IDK yet how the nation is receiving him, but *spoken in hushed tone* he’s kind of a joke here. Not to go all name-calling up in here, but some say he’s Palin in drag.

    I for one won’t count her chickens before they’ve voted, but… I’m not terribly concerned on that front. 😉

    Now, as you were saying.

  • Christy

    It is about a fundamentally different understanding of God: a conditionally loving one vs. an unconditionally loving one.

    Absent an experiential understanding or knowing or “gnowing” of unconditional love in real life, it is difficult to reconcile a God who loves in ways they’ve never before experienced. To fathom a God who is unconditionally loving while believing our parents are to represent how God loves us, as are the church people, as is the minister, and yet experiencing their love only as conditional, one has to attempt to reconcile that all those folks in our lives who are to love us best and like God haven’t. What is desperately sad is that in the face of this cognitive dissonance, instead of facing the painful reality of how none of us have ever been loved in the ways we have wanted and needed to be, people find it easier and more comforting to continue to reinforce the angry, punishing, disappointed, conditionally loving God of retributive Justice with whom they are familiar than to have to face the idea of an unconditionally loving God and an unconditionally loving human family whom they have never known.

    When it comes to emotional pain and turmoil we are programmed to insulate ourselves from those pains, and instead we run from reality in vain.

  • Jill

    Soulmentor, thank you for your tireless work. Your story is inspiring.

  • I think that the somewhat dubious claim that the culture war is over is really another strategy in the culture war. Gay marriage is slowly becoming available (at this rate the whole U.S will have it before our grandkids die of old age!) But winning the right to marry doesn’t actually mean one has all their rights. For instance, the struggle for racial equality certainly isn’t over, and it has been legal for African Americans to marry and intermarry for quite a while.

    I’m just saying for those that are nowhere close to being able to get married, or who have to defend their very existence every day, or constantly worry about violence, or cannot obtain legal recognition of their gender, or are being kicked out of their homes or disowned by their parents, or are being abused by the criminal justice system, or are in the closet because they feel they have no choice, or are full of self-loathing because their religion tells them to, it seems a little silly to say, “okay, we won. It’s time to play nice now.”

  • Scott McDaniel via Facebook

    I think that’s a fair evaluation – perhaps another angle to say “momentum in a positive direction is building”

  • Yes, that certainly would be a silly thing for anyone to say.

  • Mindy

    David, I hear what you are saying. From my Midwestern perspective, the war, rather than being nearly over, has only recent turned in our direction. The end is there, even at the horizon. Much more is to be done, yes. But the tide has turned, overall, and for that we must be grateful.

    But in the battle zones where LGBTQ folks are continually persecuted, no, we can’t afford to focus so much on being “gracious victors” as saving our friends, not letting bigotry win. I get what he is saying, but I don’t think we are ready yet to consider the war over.

    Funny, but this morning before I read this, I put this as my FB status: “Yesterday afternoon, Joerdan and I ran a couple of quick errands. I saw two young men strolling down the street holding hands, chatting, smiling. I felt so grateful that they felt comfortable doing so, that they didn’t feel that they had to hide or pretend. I may live in a somewhat backward state, but at least I live in a progressive area of said state!”

    Even a year ago, David, I didn’t see that. Now, it’s fairly common where I live. And it makes me happy every time. This is in Missouri – granted, an urban area of St. Louis, but still, Missouri – not known for its statewide progressiveness. !! Shoulder on, friend.

  • Jill

    Ah…this is perfect. And so it begs the question, what does it take to break through that insulation at the ground level?

    It IS easier to believe the adults of our formative years are just like God, and therefore God is angry, punitive, and austere rather than seeing them as human beings full of…humanity. Just like every other human down here.

    And so how to reach the fractured hearts of those clinging to a hellfire God when their supposed righteousness is all they feel they have to cling to? What can substantively replace it?

  • Christy

    All indicators would seem to point toward showing them what unconditional love feels and looks like. This requires us to do what is hard, to, like God, shine God’s sun on everyone and rain God’s rain on every field, not just those of the righteous, not just love those who are easy to love. This is hard work at which I regularly fail. If we don’t, we reinforce what they already believe to be true: You only love me when I agree with you and do and say what you want me to. This is what the Buddhist monk meant when he was asked what he was afraid of most while he was imprisoned and tortured by his captors. He said, “I was most afraid I would lose compassion for the Chinese.”

    Like so many keep saying: Love wins.

  • Wow. What a very interesting writer, with the academic program and the “expert” status and the serene perspective. Funny, but I’ve read about ONE Catholic priest supporting marriage equality of late – and of at least SIX bishops and/or Cardinals doubling-down on politicking against equality. “Catholics for Equality” does an excellent job of tracking progress (and the counter-force), and I’m encouraged that many lay people are speaking up, but “the culture war” isn’t over – and, since it’s not a game, I’m not sure how to “play nice.” The amount of invective I DON’T hurl might count as that – and the eggs I don’t hurl, and the many other scenarios that come and go in my head (remaining within that cluttered and cobwebby thing I call “my imagination”).

  • Christy

    A psychologist guy who wrote a book says, “It’s easier to be angry than sad.”* So many other wonderful writers including Tolstoy have written about the “fear of losing,” not just a game, not just in life, but loss – having something taken away from us: position, power, authority, standing, cultural influence, dominant status… It doesn’t even have to be something we actually have; it can be a perceived loss or a sense of loss of something we hope to one day have access to.

    Most of us are taught a zero sum gain, us vs. them mentality from early on. If you aren’t with me, you’re against me. If you win, I lose. It’s in our DNA to be tribal like this. Human evolution depends on us transcending our tribal nature. If no one teaches this to wide swaths of the population, how will they learn?

    *Gordon Livingston

  • Sharla

    And I don’t think anyone is saying it, yet. To say there’s been a turning point, and that we will win eventually, is not to say we HAVE won. There is still hard fighting ahead of us. But the victory is coming. That doesn’t lead me to sit back and say, okay, I can relax now; it allows me to fight with the hope that the fight will not be in vain.

  • Warren Adams-Ockrassa via Facebook

    ‘The Gay Wars are just about over. They are entering their final phase.’

    That’s what was believed about racism. It’s also what was believed about women’s rights. There is no social switch to throw that will permanently make US culture ‘gay friendly’ as long as religious bigotry is permitted to exist.

    This ‘war’ will never be over because of that.

  • Amber

    Yes I do suspect that more will abnadon thè truth of God to live sinfully freely but the turn will always win out. Always. Marriage equals man plus woman only. Children deserve both a mother and father . You can enjoy any hollow victory you may perceive having.

  • Christy

    Children deserve a healthy living environment with people who love them and provide for their needs. That ability is not limited to a marital arrangement of one man and one woman and, for nearly innumerable reasons, not all families the world over do not meet your equation yet thrive.

  • Christy

    Sorry, inadvertent double negative. It should be: “Not all families the world over meet your equation yet thrive.”

  • Christy

    Yes. If Melody and I can change our minds – or as the case may be, open ourselves to hearing for the first time what the Spirit is saying – anything is possible.

  • Christy

    What would you say marriage IS?

  • omg, Jill…! I’ve tried to stay under the radar (hiding under the covers) every since Saturday morning, I don’t have it in me to observe much of the exuberant enthusiasm on one “side” or the scrambling to expose enthusiasm on the other …

    I almost dare not find hope in your comment, but I think I might! And now I’ll back away from the keyboard… 🙂

  • Christy

    It seems abundantly clear that simply because one is a married heterosexual couple that one does not have any particularly uniquely-gifted skills in rearing healthy, well-adjusted children nor in adequately providing for their needs. In fact, many are quite bad at it.

  • mike moore

    I love what you are writing. Very wise words. But your words, sadly, premature.

    Still, I also want echo other comments made here. Demographically and statistically, this war may – may – already be won. On the ground, however, the war is at full engagement and we have lost every vote at the ballot box (not that I approve of my civil rights being put to a vote.)

    Only 6 states and Washington, D.C. have same-sex marriage, and there continue to be vigorous efforts to overturn marriage equality in those states. The federal government does not recognize legal same-sex marriages, and there is zero guarantee that DOMA is going away. The House of Reps is, in fact, funding the legal defense of DOMA. And the list goes on.

    We have tried to win this war with reasonable arguments and assurances that we are only seeking civil rights equality.

    The large majority of religions have responded with too many lies to list here. And, worse, these people know they are lying.

    I understand that many people of faith don’t agree with their leaders. Nonetheless, as long as church leaderships – Catholic, Southern Baptist, etc. – fund and lobby to oppress us in the civil arena, those churches are our enemy, and we can’t stop fighting this war until it is, in fact, over.

    Now where’s my horse and suit of armor?

  • Diana A.

    I will never doubt the stupidity of the American Electorate. We voted George W. Bush into the presidency twice, did we not?

  • David S

    Does this really have to be a war paradigm? Do there really have to be victors and losers? That makes me really uncomfortable. It suggests a certain lack faith that God can work in the lives of others; and, therefore, we must conquer. That’s precisely what I fault conservative Christians for when they work tirelessly to impose their beliefs on me and my family.

    I totally get why it feels like war. *believe me*. I have my fair share of wounds to show. I certainly share in the frustration and anger that are so often a part of this conversation. And it is absolutely right to continue to call out the lies and not accept the unacceptable from church leadership. But each victory – be it winning marriage equality, or a place in the pulpit, or anything else – is not so much conquering others as it is having more flesh-and-blood people come around to a gay-affirming point of view.

    Can I suggest a tipping point paradigm? The greater the number of hearts and minds that are changed, the further the tower of privilege leans and groans until, ultimately, it topples and disintegrates, brick by brick. Yes, there are some strong forces working to keep the tower upright. And they buttress their tower with lies and deceit. And, no, we may not have reached the tipping point yet.

    But we will. We will need to continue to the work of changing hearts and minds for as long as the tower exists (even as it lays in ruins).

  • Blake

    Interesting post. Made me rethink some positions.

    Last year I attended a Kingdom Heirs show at Dollywood. One of their songwriters happened to be in the audience for that show so they played an extra encore (entitled We Will Stand Our Ground) and allowed her to speak before hand about what inspired her to write the song.

    She spoke for 10 minutes. First about how she felt personally under attack. Then about how out of touch society was becoming from her perspective. Then about how she sees storm troopers waiting in the wings. Then about the coming martyrdom and the need to stand firmly on God’s word. And, finally, about how she was inspired to write this song by visions of police officers tearing down the doors of her church to arrest her and her pastors. The speech got a rousing ovation.

    The song got a standing ovation and another encore in the same theme. I just Googled the band trying to find the song & it appears they released an album in 2011 with that song as the title song.

    The point of my story is they are already feeling scared and vulnerable. Beyond scared, terrified. I think this is because they’ve already lost the war. The war wasn’t about gays in society, per se, but about Religion and it’s place in writing and interpreting laws. Essentially, since the Warren Court, we’ve shifted away from the Christian/populist/traditional roots of our laws as written in time and into the secular/enlightenment realities of law which underpin our founding documents. That is to say, pre CRM tradition dominated both the writing and the interpretation of laws. But post-CRM enlightenment ideals have dominated the interpretation of the law.

    Furthermore, the question of Gays in society has already been decided. We’re not allowed to be criminalized, since 2003, and we’re allowed equality before the laws in some states since 2004. In some ways this was a portion of the settlement; the victors said, “on this issue, gays in society, we’re going to apply enlightenment ideals over tradition. Deal with it.” But the opposition has had to swallow more bitter pills. They’ve been on the losing side of not only gays place in society but also of school-segregation, anti-miscegenation, abortion, no-fault divorce, prayer in schools, religious displays on public ground, feminism, gays in the military, contraceptives, sex toys, sex-ed, privacy, and censorship.

    So, while I agree with the logic in the analogy as posited, I’d say what we’re doing, at the moment, is continuing the settling of the terms of the war that the civil rights movement won — enlightenment ideals over tradition — and that since the CRM we’ve been settling the terms of the new reality of what is actually underpinning of our laws. This one, gay marriage, is the last to be settled. Is it going to be complete victory for the pro-gay/enlightenment side vis-a-vis nationwide recognition of same-sex marriage or some sort of compromise with the anti-gay/religious-tradition-popular-based-laws side?

    I think we should give them a compromise lest they actually think we’re going to go to the furthest extremes they expect us to (which is more of a reflection of their violent nature than anything autocratic about us). Either that or we have to do a better job articulating how the Enlightenment ideals will protect the church from government interference. At least as loud as David Barton is spreading lies about the underpinnings of our foundational documents. Because if we don’t they’re just going to separate themselves further and further from society until we’ve bred a group of home-grown terrorists fighting a holy war.

    And I think such a compromise, in a political context, is fair. I’m not going to like it and it’s a shame, but I can vote with my feet until Georgia comes on board (maybe in my lifetime). And that’s closer to our founding fathers’ own ideal than continuing to impose enlightenment idealism on an unwilling public. And, at the end of the day, so long as the Feds recognize my marriage I’m okay. Plus, we really ought to throw them one bone in this settlement. What else is left after gay marriage? Stem Cells? Transgender rights? I’d rather we compromise on gay marriage than on Transgender folks’ place in society (still technically a mental illness) or on the viability of stem cell research. But we really ought to throw them one bone. I just hope it’s not going to be those even more (actually) vulnerable and outnumbered than us gays.

  • Jill

    Yes, WI has its dark underbelly (as states of the union do), but the Ryan dastardly agenda isn’t terribly popular here. As a state we’ve made some poor choices, as I care not to itemize now, but I’m hanging in there. Mindy M. I will hold hope for the both of us. 🙂

    And I see the choice as desperate and ill-informed… for my $.02.

    Oh, and the Palin in drag reference is not regarding the Monty Python days BTW.

  • mike moore

    Yes, this must be framed as a war.

    In 1986, the US Supreme Court upheld Georgia’s sodomy laws (Bowers v. Hardwick.) In a rare move, the Court “quickly” reversed itself (Lawrence v. Texas) in 2003. While rarely enforced, it was nonetheless legal until 2003 – twofuckingthousandthree!! A mere 9 years ago – to arrest me for, essentially, being gay.

    It is a war, and it must be fought on two fronts. One front must counter the very real attacks on our community. The other front is to win the hearts and minds of those around us. These battles are not mutually exclusive. Neither front can be neglected.

  • Yeah, I worry much about this post-election era, even more than last, no matter who wins!

    I dunno about Michael Palin (heheh) but I must admit, I did love Ryan in the Munsters! 🙂

  • dan(Chicago)

    The diffuculty is that much of this fear is manufactured for profit and ministry, which makes calculating an appropriate and affective response quite difficult. It’s not likely a coincidence that the song writer you mentioned put out an album featuring the song she wrote based on her ‘vision.’ She’s trembling all the way to the bank. (to paraphrase Liberace).

    Not sure they care whether we throw them a bone or not. The story that brings the congregation to its feet is the story they are going to tell.

  • Don Rappe

    To me, the theology seems good, but the analogy to war, misleading. Wars tend to have a conclusion. I’d compare it to perpetual wrestling. (College wrestling, not the TV type.) We need to keep our weight on our opponents. But, spitting in their face is bad sportsmanship. The match is not over until the opponent quits squirming and actually submits. We don’t hold our breath waiting for this.

  • David S

    Mike –

    Easy there tough guy. I’m on your side here. Who said anything about ignoring the attacks on our community? I’m not suggesting that a righteous fight is not called for or necessary. I give significant money and time in that fight. My marriage certificate was hard won. And I continue to fight for ENDA and GENDA legislation. I’ve got skin in the game here.

    But what we *can’t* do, either inside or outside the church, is exactly what’s being done to us. Simply saying “I’m right and you’re wrong”, “I’m the ‘in’ and your the ‘other'”, or “majority rules so suck it up and cope” will do NOTHING but harm in the end. From a religious perspective, it is patently contrary to Christ’s command to love our neighbor (yes, even the ones who have tried to oppress and harm us). From a practical perpspective, it will make the work of changing hearts and minds that much harder as resentful anti-gay Christians get further entrenched in their ideology (yes, that *is* possible…we *can* undo all of the work we’ve already done).

    From a legal perspective, gay rights victories in the courts can feel like a hard-won affirmation – “the good guys win in the end!”. But we should fear a political backlash if the proper work of preparing the citizenry has not happened. Don’t believe me? Look at the history of abortion in America as exhibit “a”. You know how we prepare the citizenry for the change in gay rights? We win hearts and minds. We don’t impose our will.

    And, not for nothing, where is there room for God in a scorched earth campaign?

    I’m sticking by my tipping point paradigm.

  • I’m finding the comments quite interesting here. I think a lot of people are assuming that when Jon has said ‘final phase’ he didn’t necessarily mean ‘over by Christmas’! I took his comments to mean that victory is now inevitable, which it is. Conflicts can drag on for a *very* long time, even once it’s clear what the outcome will be, and the final battles can be some of the worst. Courage! x

  • Jill

    David S, I’m getting your tipping point concept, as I’ve had similar argument somewhere out here, but I’m still stuck at the starting line:

    What does it take to change hearts and minds? Why hasn’t it been accomplished yet? How many decades, centuries, and generations?

    Perhaps what I’m stumbling to say is that *hatred (blinking word) is always learned behavior. How do we stem the tide of indoctrinated ignorance ?

    (I ask this all generally since I don’t expect any one person to respond with the perfect resolution.)

    And I’ll throw in a landmine: it seems clear to me that centuries of bible teaching has not helped human beings locate their collective humanness, so I wonder what will unify us to at least give up the moral certitude and superiority.

  • Having just run my first Gauntlet of Hate (protestors with nasty signs and a nastier bullhorn–all imported, by the way, not local people–at the first Pride event this small New Mexico town has ever put on), I can say that the Wars are well and healthy and very much still going on… if getting more desperate and shrill all the time. Yes, they’ve lost; they know they’ve lost; it’s only a matter of time now, the momentum has without a doubt shifted. But over? Oh, no. Just like racism, for the majority, it soon really will be over, but for some, it will never be. That’s just the way of human beings, I suppose.

  • David S

    Jill – awesome questions. I’m sure I don’t know the answers. I’m sure that all marginalized groups ask the same question – “How do we stem the tide of indoctrinated ignorance?”

    The only thing I can offer is that, elsewhere in this thread, Melody and Christy both volunteered that they had come around to a gay-affirming point of view. Perhaps they have some insights about how that happened.

    I can’t beg patience that I don’t possess myself.

    But, as Lymis so correctly pointed out (as usual), change in attitudes about people who are gay is happening at a remarkable pace. So I’m hopeful that the tipping point comes soon.

  • That’s what I took him to mean, too. Selma marked the day the civil rights movement “won” but there was (still is) a lot of mopping up to do afterwards, and outbursts of hate and anger. It may never go away, but at least it will become marginalized and no longer able to impose itself on the bulk of people.

  • Dave Bowling

    Jill: I agree that these are excellent questions and hopefully someday we will know the answer.

    Until then, I will share something a good friend of mine told me that her father said back in the 60s about the Civil Rights struggle … “there will need to be a whole lotta folks buried before we really see a change of thought and spirit about our rights.” I pray this is not true, but it does appear that way.

  • Jill

    Then perhaps it’s what I suspect, that yes as David S and Lymis say it is happening on the personal level, yet we haven’t reached the playing field of the masses which then requires legislation. (And yes, I too made the switch from ignorance to respect.)

    It just stuns me sometimes to find we’ve elected the first president of color, and yet racism continues to cast such a blight on law enforcement, political agendas, our economy, employment opportunities.

    The section of society that seems to abhor governmental intrusion requires so much more of it in order to play nice and share their toys. Sigh.

  • Christy

    It was a process. It wasn’t because of a Bible verse, but from an experiential growing understanding through eyes that had been previously clouded over with indoctrination and brainwashing that the faith of my youth was hypocritical, untruthful, unjust, didn’t live what they preached, had different rules for the hierarchy than the laity, different rules for men than for women, were not kind and compassionate but judgmental and intolerant and often cruel, who could beat their children mercilessly and thank God while doing it, and who ultimately didn’t know what true love was: the unconditional kind.

    Through a combination of life events I grew out of that and into a new way of seeing. Those variables included: parents who valued my education more than the dogma who allowed me to leave my private Fundamentalist Baptist school to finish high school at an accredited public high school where the science curriculum was stronger so I could get into a good university (where I wanted to study medicine) instead of going to what they knew to be a racist school where all my peers would be attending at Bob Jones University. They had also been burnt enough times by the minister at our church and subsequent churches to have had their eyes opened to the SOP of “Question not God’s anointed.”

    So: I went to a public high school, where for the first time I socialized with people outside our faith. I went to a top Twenty five university out of state where I socialized with people from all over the world who were different than me including people of other faiths (my roommate and best friend was Jewish). I married someone essentially “outside my faith” who was nominally protestant. He was in the military and we moved overseas where I experienced a different culture. We lived all over the US. These all set the stage. But nothing changed me like motherhood where in a mystical experience of God I understood for the first time what unconditional love felt like: how I was overcome by this tiny pink helpless screaming bundle of a stranger that just put me through hell to get here, who I loved so completely I would do anything for including die to protect them…and God smacked me up along side the head and put the thought in my mind: “Holy shit. That’s how God loves us.”

    Though I was long ago born again and dunked by baptism when I was about twelve, my Presbyterian minister friend Dehb calls that my conversion story.

    That was the turning point. What love was fundamentally had changed. There had also been a very few deeply important people in my life whom I had (to use a John Shore word) gloamed unto whom I very much loved and whom I knew had loved me for no reason other than we just did. They had been supportive cheerleaders in my life, wise guides, angels if you will, and it occurred to me that if I can love my dear friends this much and would feel devastated if someone said that because of their interpretation of scripture I was not allowed to love my dearest friends as I do, how wronged I would feel, how devastated and how less rich my life would be. How empty.

    I had learned compassion in a real and tangible way. I had learned to truly put myself in someone else’s place and see and feel with them.

    My dearest friend has a brother in his eighties who has been with his partner for over forty years. They love each other. I could no longer justify denying anyone the right to be with the person they love because I had learned how to feel with them.

    This is how love changes things and love ultimately is what wins.

    People who are taught to hate are also often the product of a life where they never learned how to truly love or be loved or let themselves be vulnerable enough to be loved… It is desperately sad when put in those terms.

  • Jill

    Ah Christy, wiping away tears…. this is beautiful. Thank you for this.

    Perhaps compassion is a learned behavior too, and more powerful. ? 🙂

  • David S

    Thanks for sharing, Christy.

    Maybe John should do a sequel to “UNFAIR” about “apostate allies” and how they got that way 😉 Thanks for being an ally!

  • Lyn

    I do think there are people like that out there– folks who are never, ever going to accept lgbt folks as equals. But I think there are also a lot of people who have been deceived by the inflammatory rhetoric of the anti-LGBT forces, the folks who claim to know “the clear meaning of scripture”, and the like. The ranks of those folks aren’t just thinning because they’re dying out. They’re thinning because their fears couldn’t survive the contact with genuine lgbt people, couldn’t stand up to the careful presentations of actual biblical scholarship on the question. And that’s awesome.

  • Elizabeth

    Yes. Yes, we did. My Michigan people think Romney has it in the bag, even those strongly opposed to him.

  • Christy

    Hugs all around!

  • But it isn’t a war.

    This isn’t a conflict between two groups in a struggle for ultimate control. It is a struggle by one group for equality against another that wants to deprive them of rights.

    Even as the dominant group loses the struggle to withold rights, they will remain the dominant group.

    The compromise and concilliation necessary at the end of a conflict is entirely unnecessary here.

    And what would conciliation look like, anyways? One group wants all to be equal; the other is concerned with maintaining special privilege. Should the latter be assured that, while they lose some ability to oppress others, they will remain unfairly privileged? If they are afraid of equality, then there should be no assurances to offer them. There are no justifiable concerns with regards to their equality, only their special status.

  • Christy

    Yes. This.

  • Christy

    Thank you. I think it is, though a behavior one can only learn through experiencing it. That’s why the Greatest Commandment has so much power and transcends the bounds of Christianity.

  • David S

    Ditto. Well said.

  • Karen Miller


  • Sharla

    I think it could be that the reason racism has gotten ugly again in the past few years is precisely because we have a president of color. That brought up anxiety and fear that had at least been kept at bay. I think the president is doing exactly the right thing, staying non-anxious, not getting down in there crying racism, etc. Others can point it out, but if he does it creates more problems–yes, that’s unfair, but if we want to get through this and possibly put more of our racist history behind us, this is how it needs to be done.

    Family Systems Theory is a very useful lens through which to view a lot of what’s going on in our country today, whether it’s in regard to race or sexual orientation, or just about anything else. The times are a-changing, and some people are prepared to fight like hell to keep that from happening. But happen it will.

  • Sharla

    Why hasn’t it been accomplished yet?

    It has been. It is being. A few weeks ago I was a counselor at a church camp with high-school age kids. We had a discussion about gay marriage, and even the more conservative kids in the group said, “We don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.” These kids have known LGBT people their whole lives. They have gay classmates. Gay marriage has been legal in this state since they were in elementary or middle school. We will not see any of them carrying homophobic signs or posting in-your-face pics of themselves with Chick-fil-A bags. When they have children, this is how they’ll raise their kids.

  • preve

    Based on what happened AUG. 1 at Chick fil A & the turn out this is far from over

  • Sharla

    Yes, that is true. World War II wasn’t over when the boats landed at Normandy. The Battle of the Bulge came after that. Many more people fought and died in that war before victory was declared. But the turning point had come. “Turning point” doesn’t mean “it’s all over.” No one in their right mind could argue that. But it does mean the end will come.

  • Matt

    That’s right, just throw the transgender folks under the bus, like mainstream LGB folks have been doing for decades.

    This isn’t compromise, this is getting what you want at the expense of others.

  • Jill

    Sharla you have given me much to chew on. This is powerful stuff. I need this, to remind me of hope on the horizon. To give up all the myriad reasons I have to believe that darkness is too much for the light.

    It is being accomplished.

  • Carol VanderNat

    “This isn’t a conflict between two groups in a struggle for ultimate control. It is a struggle by one group for equality against another that wants to deprive them of rights.”

    This is no different than the “Womens’ Suffrage” movement, or the civil rights movement….it wasn’t that long ago that bi-racial marriages were illegal…..

  • Diana A.

    No, that’s not what he said. He actually said “I’d rather we compromise on gay marriage than on Transgender folks’ place in society (still technically a mental illness) or on the viability of stem cell research.” In other words, he would rather compromise on having gay marriage be legal in every state then to have Transgender folks “thrown under the bus” or have stem cell research be blocked. I’m not sure that I agree with his overall argument [I think what Dan(Chicago) said is very true] but I think Blake is saying that transgendered folks should not be thrown under bus, not that they should.

  • LUAlly

    I appreciate the sentiment, but as others have said, the use of war metaphor squicks me out a little.

    It’s funny I should happen upon this post today. God gave me these words for some good friends and fellow Christian LGBT allies just the other day and I thought I’d share them here:

    “We walk a delicate balance between compassion for the sinned against; righteous indignation for their plight and grace for those who sin against them by way of oppression and spiritual abuse. May our compassion for the sinned-against never excuse us from grace for those who sin against them. Likewise, may our grace for those who sin against them never cause us to forget what we’re fighting for…

    Trust me, that thought was bred of my own failings in this area: the tendency is to get so caught up in the conviction to stand up for what’s right that we forget that the grace of God is what delivered us from the same poisonous doctrine. Being right is never an excuse to view ourselves as better than anyone else. Quite the contrary; it is yet another reason to be humble and gracious before God.”

  • squicks!

  • David S

    This is a beautiful thought. And as a Christian who is gay, it’s a challenge showing grace to those who gleefully condemn me and would oppress me. But letting go of some of those really ugly feelings I harbor is important.

    I would only ask, as a Christian allies of people who are gay, please don’t use grace and peacemaking as cover for staying silent rather than standing up for what’s right.

    I thought last year’s debate on ordination standards in the Presbyterian Church (USA) was a great example of walking the line you describe. It is also an illustration that showing grace is not the same thing as avoiding conflict.

  • mike moore

    I am better than these guys. And their words and actions prove it every day.

  • Matt

    I don’t, personally, consider myself better than them. “There but for the grace of God go I…” and all that. I was raised in a church. If I were not transgender and bisexual, I would not have that same kind of raw empathy that only those on the inside can have. And who knows what I might have done or said against LGBTQ people? I feel actually very privileged to have gained this in-y0ur-face crash course on human nature and conflict. I have grown immensely because of it.

  • David S

    Mike, I totally hear you, brother. Sometimes I am so hurt and angered by the anti-gay rhetoric being spewed that I could s**t a brick.

    As long as we’re engaging in this dialog, let me offer yet two more unsolicited thoughts. Do with them as you will.

    When we respond to hate with hate, the whole thing escalates. When we offer wholesale indictments of Christians as judgmental bigots and religion as evil, we allow them, in turn, to paint us distorted caricatures of overly-emotional, evil aggressors who are destroying society and attacking God Himself.

    Who pays for this escalation? Johnny – the gay kid who lives in Podunk, Pennsyltucky. Johnny doesn’t have the luxury of running away to a gay ghetto on a coast where it truly has gotten better. For Johnny, things have gotten immeasurably worse.

    Look at what happened when our side had an overreaching reaction to Dan Cathy’s anti-gay remarks. It was a truly disheartening backlash. The popular sentiment behind the run on chicken sandwiches was “we’re sticking it to the gays”. My guess is that the other kids in Johnny’s class were more emboldened to abuse him because they saw their friends and family doing exactly the same thing (on TV, on facebook, and at lunch). Are we surprised that our seeming political victories have correlated to a higher incidence of gay teen suicide? I am by no means defending indefensible bullying behavior. I am only suggesting that the more heated the public battle, the worse it gets for Johnny.

    The other thought I’d offer is this: the intent of anti-gay Christians counts for something (maybe not everything, but at least something). Many anti-gay Christians truly and sincerely believe that gay people are damned hell. Fear is a powerful motivator – especially for the parent of a child who is gay. I’m not saying that their intent excuses their impact. But it’s not fair to label all anti-gay Christians as haters. They may be objectively intolerant and bigoted (which are emotionally freighted words that probably do not advance the conversation). But some people think that “loving” means “trying to save you from hell”.

    I’m far from successful, but I sincerely try to assume the best intentions of those that disagree with me…at least going into the conversation.

    I believe that it is possible to be assertive (maybe even aggressive) without being unkind. I believe that our moral argument about the real harm they are causing will carry the day. So I focus on the impact, not the intent, of the anti-gay Christians. BTW – I thought you did exactly this brilliantly in your exchange with the Catholic duo at the airport.

  • Mindy

    Matt, subconsciously, you *do* think you are better. “There but for the grace of God go I . . . ” simply means that you believe you deserved his grace more than the bigots who are too ignorant to know better. I know you don’t consciously mean that. But think about that phrase. Why did you receive the grace of God, but not the innocent who was born into a bigoted, ignorant family? Because for some reason, you deserved it more?

    I’m not picking on you in particular, Matt – that phrase just really bothers me. And it is normal human nature to believe we are “better than.” I’m sure “they” believe they are better than you, or me, or John Shore, that wolf in sheep’s clothing who keeps leading us astray.

    What we do with that belief, not whether we believe it or not, is what defines us.

  • n.

    i thought a key part of the concept of grace was that nobody deserves it. but then i was raised calvinist.

  • Diana A.

    I was raised a Methodist but taught the same thing.

  • Oz in OK

    I appreciate Jon Hatch sending you this missive, John – and yes, it does give me something new to think about, but like others here, I look at Jon talking about ‘having won the war’, then I look around me, and the fact that both my husband and I are talking very seriously about getting our Concealed-Carry gun licenses and, well… /sigh

    For years now, I’ve noticed that when ‘Christians’ trot out their ‘clobber passages’, one verse consistently gets left out – while they’ll gleefully quote Leviticus 18:22, the companion verse – Leviticus 20:13 – the ‘being gay is an abomination and you must be killed for it’ verse – didn’t get mentioned about 99% of the time. However, that’s no longer the case. I’m noticing Leviticus 20:13 being mentioned more and more often – and it *really* bothers me. In the days and weeks after Amendment One passed in North Carolina, I was horrified to hear pastors demanding that gays and lesbians be rounded up and stuck in concentration camps, or that ‘the government should kill gays’ and on and on and on – the line between ‘the Bible says you’re an abomination’ and ‘the Bible says you’re an abomination AND you must be murdered for it’ is being crossed more and more often, while too many Christians just look at their toes and mumble ‘well we aren’t ALL like that’. I don’t like it. Not. One. Bit.

    As for the ‘war’ analogy – I know it bothers some, but to me it’s becoming more and more apt – with each victory for us, the rhetoric just keeps ratcheting up a little higher… just a little higher… I’m already hearing that ‘war’ rhetoric a LOT from Christians – people who seem to legitimately think that their rights are being stripped away, that the National Guard will be breaking into their churches any time now… and that fear is being manipulated into anger. Lots and lots of anger.

    These days, I can’t help but feel like Gandalf and Pippin from the last Lord of the Rings movie looking out at the mountains of Mordor and seeing the violent and rage-fueled firestorm just peeking over the tops of the mountains. We’ve talked a lot about the ‘tipping point’ in which rights for us are supported by the majority of Americans – and polls consistently show we’ve already reached that point – but what about the OTHER tipping point? There are a lot of very, very frightened ‘Christians’ out there – and if that fear is already driving them to violence (anybody notice how the number of LGBT hate crimes is going through the roof this year?) what’s going to happen if/when President Obama is re-elected? Or we win the ballot initiatives in Maine, Maryland or Washington State? Or DOMA gets struck down by the Supreme Court?

    I admit it – I’m scared. I’m scared for my husband. I’m scared for my LGBT friends. I’m scared for my straight ally friends and family. I’m scared for myself. I WILL continue to assertively push for full Equality. I will continue having discussions with folks about how this anti-Gay animus affects me and my loved ones… but I have this growing dread of what the final days of this war are going to look like.

  • charles

    not to get off topic- but you might look into

    there are chapters in many states…..

  • mike moore

    I really do appreciate what you are saying and the compliment you paid me.

    However, at a certain fork in the road, you and I part company. In my view, demanding equality should not be considered as an escalation. Forcefully saying “I will not live by the values you dictate or legislate for me” is not escalation.

    You speak of Johnny. I would speak of Matthew Shepard. People have never needed a reason or an escalation to hate gay people, beat them, and leave them to die, tied to a fence. I believe that what happened to Matthew Shepard is, in fact, less likely to happen today precisely because we stand firm and say, “enough.” (Even if it’s only saying, “I’ve had enough of you and your chicken sandwiches.”)

    So what is kindness? I believe sometimes it is saying, “you seem to feel it’s OK can bully this kid Matthew … now, try to imagine doing it once I’ve taken a baseball bat to your knees.”

    Jesus and I part company on this as well, so I don’t believe I necessarily hold the high ground. But to sometimes respond to hate with a fist, or a baseball bat, or with the fire-bombing of Dresden, seems entirely appropriate.

    Nothing surprises a bully – or a President, a Senator or a Congressman – who believe they safely ensconced at a dinner party of “friends,” than to have the man shaking their hand say, “I think you should be ashamed of the way you treat the gay community. You, Sir, have acted in vile manner.”

    I am generally considered a very kind man. And I’ve learned nothing surprises a bully more than a left hook from a nice guy.

  • Jill

    Hey Blog Reader, if you ever choose to author your own, it HAS to be called A Left Hook from a Nice Guy.

  • mike moore

    Love that! But if I author a blog, I won’t have time for rants and diatribes here … choices, choices, choices.

  • Jill

    Just sayin’ 😉

  • mike moore

    and our love affair grows.

  • Mindy

    I don’t disagree, n. and Diana – I just really don’t like that phrase. But if no one deserves God’s grace, then it’s just . . . random?

    When I was just learning about adoption, back when my oldest was a baby, I was involved in a discussion with some other adoptive parents and some birthmothers. One of the a-moms said something like, “I would never criticize any of you for having a child out of wedlock. I had sex before marriage, too, and there but for the grace of God . .. ”

    The birthmothers in the group were genuinely hurt, some were angry. “So God gave YOU His grace, but ignored me?” “You believe that God’s grace made sure you didn’t get pregnant, and that the son I bore and have loved for 30 years without ever knowing him, the son I miss every day of my life and who I hope is a joy to his adoptive family – he didn’t come from grace??”

    Usually, we use that phrase ABOUT someone we perceive as less fortunate than ourselves. But rarely do we say it directly TO the person/people we’re referencing. When you do, it takes on a whole different meaning. God gave ME his grace; sorry he passed right over you.

    I’m not saying that Matt (above) actually feels that way – but ever since that conversation, I’ve thought about that expression differently. I believe it is something we say when we feel like we were handed good fortune or dodged a bullet, in an attempt at humility – to give God the credit instead of taking credit ourselves. But the message remains the same – “I am the blessed one, sorry your life sucks.”

    Needless to say, not an expression I use anymore.

  • Christy

    Re: “if no one deserves God’s grace, then it’s just . . . random?”

    This is an important doctrinal difference between evangelical and mainline Christianity: Calvinists, Armnianists and Universalists and is relevant as to “how one becomes a Christian.”

    The Arminian (Evangelical) point of view of Free Will teaches that we participate in our own salvation. Grace is conditional upon us believing, accepting Jesus as our Saviour, being born again, repenting and asking for forgiveness, asking Jesus to come into our heart, etc. Grace is conferred upon us in exchange for us choosing God.

    Calvinism ascribes to Total Depravity. Our sin nature passed onto all of mankind through The Fall of Adam makes us so sinful such that no one can do anything to achieve Grace, including believe. We do not participate in our own salvation. God chooses us. We don’t choose God. Various degrees of predestination abound and is a sticky topic. So God chooses some but not all? That seems …unjust.

    Universalists believe God chooses all of us and reveals God’s self to us in God’s own way and God’s own time. Substitutionary Atonement through the death of Jesus may or may not play a role.

    Other non-dualist faiths reject the idea of original sin, believing in a more yin and yang approach that all of us have evil and divine within us and all have the potential of having the divine spark/chi/atman/soul activated within us. As the Native American Spirituality tale goes: the one that grows is the one we feed.

    Evangelicals would say being innately sinful, none of us deserve grace. God offers it as a free gift. It’s our job to reach out and accept it.

    Calvinists would say none of us deserve grace, but God offers it as a free gift. Who are we to know who and why God chooses some and not others.

    Universalists might say God loves us all so much that God will never stop drawing all of God’s creation back to God’s self and God will always make a way. Grace is that way and it is for everyone.

  • Jill

    Deserving…. THAT is a hot-button trigger word for me. To live in a dark, straightjacket of a fundy home where spirit breaking was part of the daily routine, but still clinging to a clean, unspoiled concept of God who protects His children, comforts them, and gives them The Way in which to Live that brings… IDK, something better than what I was living.

    I was the classic good girl, following the rules to earn the seal of approval–praying, communing, proselytizing, and studying the teachings. I did everything I could do “right”. I was hassled in school for my denominational affiliation, yet I didn’t give up.

    And when things got quite bad and fear was thick, I prayed and prayed and prayed. Falling asleep mid-prayer was common for me, if only because God was the only being at that time who was real to me, who promised to be there for me when I needed Him.

    You can likely guess the prayers weren’t terribly successful, not until I was able to move out and get help. But deserving… if I did the correct things and still couldn’t get God’s intervention, then there must have been something wrong with me, right? Then maybe I ‘deserved’ all that I endured?

    There is nothing to deserve. I couldn’t ‘deserve’ the love and care of my parents–one who was absent, the other mentally ill. I will not again allow my faith to be sullied by the notion of deserved, conditional love again. If God cannot love His creation without the context of pity and undeserving, then there’s a problem. Love from pity is not love.

    I get what Matt is saying and I’m not criticizing either, but I’m with Mindy.

  • Christy

    Ah, hon. Welcome to the recovering fundamentalist section of John Shore’s page. You can sit by me. There’s plenty of room.

    The not-good-enoughness of fundamentalism is soul-crushing. John was kind enough once to publish a note I wrote about that here:

    Yes. The idea of not deserving has been perverted into magnifying just how loathsome and vile we poor wretched souls are, and boy don’t they like to preach that thick from the pulpit and project that feeling out onto everyone they meet. And it reinforces the conditional love that so many who have been reared in that faith have experienced by everyone in their lives who should have loved them best and unconditionally and didn’t. They reject an unconditionally loving God most likely because the cognitive dissonance of our parents and families and ministers and friends not matching how an unconditionally loving God would love us would be too painful to bear. And, so the sad news is that it is easier to be angry than sad…and keep preaching the angry punishing God that we see reflected in all those God-fearing people around us than to believe that everything we’ve ever experienced as love thus far has not been.

    The good news is this is not God.

  • n.

    I want to be a universalist… So bad. But i look out at the world and total depravity is still the most observable part of any theology ever, in my opinion.

  • Jill

    Ugh. So much spiritual violation and bloodshed. It’s never easy to think you are alone, yet it’s never easy to know that you’re in good company, you know?

    The recovered fundy section now turning into the support group! 😉 John is such a patient man. It was surprising to learn he’s Christian too! Didn’t know those two things existed in the same space!

    I joke, and yet this is the space in which I still pivot in terms of Christian beliefs and values. Didn’t realize until lately how much un-learning I’m still doing after being out of my particular ‘cult’ over 15 years. I’m still blaming Christ for what skates by under his radar, with his name hijacked and attached to it. WIP.

    So thanks Christy. If it’s alright, I’m gonna tuck in right next to you here. *hug*

  • n.

    In Leonard Cohen’s song _Come Healing_, there is a line “none of us deserving the cruelty or the grace” that i couldn’t resist mentioning in this context. Not sure what the real answer is, though

  • Sharla

    Have either of you read Jay Bakker’s book Son of a Preacher Man? He talks about how he discovered grace, as an adult, and then he asked his father why he never told him about that. And Jim said, I didn’t know about it, either. Sad.

    Grace isn’t about “deserve,” and it’s not about “depravity.” It is about how unimaginably much God loves us. People can’t fathom that kind of love, so they devote themselves to looking for the meanness in the gift. It’s not there, so they invent it. It’s not there. The challenge for many of us non-fundies is to get that across to people who’ve only heard the meanness.

  • Christy

    I haven’t read it, Sharla, but you’re right, “It is about how unimaginably much God loves us.”

    As the anger waxes and wanes about feeling deceived and lied to and knowing the abuse that goes on and the magnitude of what it takes to admit and absorb one has been brought up in a cult … I have learned the same insight that Jay came to: They can’t teach what they don’t know. How desperately sad is that.

    At its heart this is about toxic family systems, learned behaviors and habits, indoctrinated hierarchical insulated social systems, fear, manipulation and unhealthy psychology sanctioned by doctrine and dogma; it goes deep.

  • Blake

    I think my illustrative example is distracting from my point. I’m also still working out all the details, but the important bit is that we not think of gay marriage as an isolated war out of the historical context in which it is occurring. If we apply the tenants of the post-conflict theory I don’t think we should think of the gay marriage movement as a war but rather as us settling the terms of the past victory of Jeffersonian Enlightenment Theory over Conservative-Traditionalist Theory. That war began in the 50’s in Kansas & was finished in the White House in 1964-65. Pat Robinson may insist that the war started in the 80’s but who’s saying he’s any less myopic than the average American.

    It makes more sense, IMO in the context of the theory, that everything since the civil rights movement (gay lib, women’s lib, Americans w/disabilities act, etc.) has been an applying of the terms of the civil rights movement’s victory (that the founding premises of our country are more than empty promises) to another portion of society. We’ve been stuffing it down their throats for a long time now & they’re so desperate, already, that they’re lashing out at institutions rather than attempting to refute the point (partially because they can’t; which is a good thing). What is not under attack in our society from the right? The Press, Public Education, Higher Education, the Justice System, and the Supreme Court; that I can think of off the top of my head.

    Look at the state of the press, for example, they attacked and attacked it so much that the news networks have become party propaganda mouthpieces rather than news outlets. They’d rather have a simulacra of news which serves only to validate their nostalgic-based reasoning. They’d rather have Limbaugh than Burrows.

    Or their leading Jurists. Scalia’s originalism is a farce because he conveniently doesn’t apply it to the racist intent behind racist laws (partially because that war is over). So he’s holding on to and championing a broken theory which is not viable in the new order after the war. Such a theory, because it is inconsistent and malleable, will not serve the best interests of the country but it will justify whatever the proponents of it want it to. What is that but rot from within born of bankrupt reasoning? Thomas is the most silent SCJ ever. And even the conservatives they appoint in the federal judiciary end up undermining their core idea that rights are good for me but not for thee.

    In fact they’ve so thoroughly lost that they haven’t even found a new core political philosophy. What has conservatism become but base and nostalgic knee-jerk-populist-reactionary-crap?

    There is only one theory alive in the USA when it comes to how our laws apply (or are written to apply) in society and that theory is based on Jeffersonian ideals. Solution wise, time will do it. I think this may point to the reason why Gay Marriage is a generational issue. Those of us who were raised and educated in a world that was trying to live up to the Jeffersonian ideals are not interested in taking a step back to a time which only existed in the imaginations of those who are exploiting the bitterness of the end of the War over civil rights. Also their already dead theory that tradition and religion are more important than human rights in the context of the writing and application of laws strikes us as alien and wrong. We just have to point the foolishness in Russia for a fresh example of how bankrupt that line of reasoning is.

    All that or, the theory doesn’t apply because it is not a war.

  • Blake

    I certainly hope we do not throw transgendered folks under the bus for the sake of making gay rights palatable to the American Public at large. We need ENDA but y’all need ENDA more & an ENDA without transgendered protections is not worth passing.

  • LUAlly

    I don’t know if I’m a universalist. I’m looking into it and I want to read “God’s Final Victory,” by Eric Reitan which purports to make the most comprehensive case for it. But I digress.

    I know it’s easy to look at the world and see almost nothing but Darkness, but that’s not because Darkness is the strongest force in the world. It’s because Darkness roars and churns and screams bloody murder to make itself known so that none can deny its existence. The Light, on the other hand, is humble, quiet and gentle, seeking to do no violence, even to the Darkness, which it wishes only to redeem. The drawback to that approach is that the Light is harder to see if you don’t know where to look, but if it changed, it would cease to be Light.

    It’s all a matter of perspective, and this is what draws me most toward universalism:

    It’s the difference between hearing the bloody howling of the Darkness, seeing the destruction it has wrought and looking out at a world going to Hell, and finding the tiniest, quietest sliver of redemptive, life-giving Light and looking out at a world being prepared for Heaven.

    Just my perspective.

  • It’s only a war if there are two sides out to get each other – otherwise it’s just a slaughter. The war analogy loses the idea of one side being oppressed and victimized, and instead allows them to both claim to be under attack. Don’t let them get away with it.