Following Jesus to Maiden, NC

While a teenage birthday party had taken over my house last Saturday night, Laura, a friend you’ll get to know more, and I were sitting out back by the fireplace talking about the wonderful weather, what summer wheat beers we’d be drinking this year, our wives, her chaplaincy at a level 1 trauma hospital…and The Cross. Laura is one of my dearest friends, a colleague from Candler and about the funniest damn person I know. She’s also one of the strongest, most capable chaplains I’ve ever met. Serving in one of the south’s most challenging trauma hospitals she’s hardly one to shrink from danger or avoid confrontation – have you been in an inner city ER before??

As our conversation meandered we talked about the ways we live or don’t live fully. She and her partner have been together for about five years and thankfully still hold hands when they can. When they can. Her wife Karen would hold her hand anywhere, any time – “even Tifton, Georgia!” says Laura, “We’d get shot out there!” My own wife is reluctant to hold my hand in public, not even in the relatively safe bubble of inner-city Atlanta, out of concern for our safety or the safety of our children when they are with us. Just holding hands with the one you love can get you killed? I want to believe this is outrageous, ridiculous and just extreme paranoia – but then I see what a so-called pastor (he’s about as pastoral as a copperhead) preaches to his flock in Maiden, NC and I remember, I know that I could be just one tender gesture away from my very own 3 by 6 parcel of shade at Oakland Cemetery.

While Laura and my wife are rightfully concerned about those tiny details of hate crimes and children without parents, Karen points us to Jesus. Jesus, she reminds us lived fully into who he was born and called to be. He lived his full humanity without apology and without fear. He gathered together a motley band of frequently dense followers, hung out in streets and on hillsides with pariahs, frequently challenged religious authority, cleared the temple of greedy and corrupt squatters and maintained his call through torture and all the way to the cross. Was he afraid? Perhaps – he was fully human after all. We’ve overheard his dark night conversation with his parent – “take this cup from me…” But we know he stands up and willingly leaves that garden to face what God has created him to do, become even more fully who he is – Christ. How far are we willing to follow Jesus? What are we willing to risk? What am I willing to risk? Am I just another tragic idealist who believes that one gentle hand holding after another can slowly change the world? Am I willing to do more?

There is a protest, a peaceful demonstration planned this Sunday in Maiden, NC. An outpouring of love to show the community – the world – that love is bigger than hate. It’s just a four-hour drive from Atlanta. But I have a manuscript due at the end of the month, it’s Memorial Day weekend, the kids first weekend out of school, we are going on an extended camping trip next week, it’s a long-ass drive and gas prices are ridiculous, oh – and I could get killed. Really, really – if a preacher just stood in front of a congregation and was affirmed in his ignorant call to round up folks like me so we would die off – how far fetched is it that someone in his community takes that as “special dispensations” to kill “the lesbians, queers and gays?”

A bit of an aside: do I think Mr. Worley of Maiden, NC has a right to say what he wants in his church to his community? Yes, up to a point. I am not concerned at all about his personal belief that I am an abomination. His faith is his, not mine. But when his position affords him the power to call for the death of millions of people – well that seems to cross a line eh?

Do I believe we have any business telling one church what they can or can’t preach, believe, pray or do? Nope, between my baptist roots and that whole separation of church and state thing I am pretty clear that churches should be able to conduct themselves how ever they feel called. Unless their calling puts the lives of people in jeopardy.

Do I believe there are different ways to live into being Christian – you betcha – but hatred is never, never, never as aspect of following Christ.

Am I wary of thrusting this tiny, hateful man and congregation further into the spotlight? Do they deserve the attention? Yeah, very worried that every character I type is pointing to the festering evil mind of an otherwise small, small man. But (yeah, you knew there was one more) if Christians who follow Compassionate One don’t speak up – over and over again – then voices like his, so easily tossing around the heresy of a hateful God, are allowed to speak without counter. We must raise our voices and join a chorus of love that crescendos over the cacophony of fear and hate. Silence is consent.

How far am I willing to follow Jesus? I am torn for many reasons – personal and social – as to whether or not I am called to this particular cross on this particular hill. It may not even be a cross, just a big ole swarm of loving people who outshine the raisin-heart of Mr. Worley.  Either way, those sound like some people I’d like to meet.

About Kimberly Knight

Kimberly has a long history of back-pew sitting, Wednesday night supper eatin' and generally trying God’s patience since 1969. She's lucky enough to have made her technology addiction a career and serves as both the Director of Digital Strategy as a southern liberal arts college and Minister of Digital community with Extravagance UCC.

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  • Adele Henderson

    Thank you for your honesty about your struggle between your fear and the call to not remain silent. I am a new resident to Roanoke, VA but grew up and lived sometime in Raleigh, NC. Being home this weekend got me thinking about going to this protest. As a straight, female ordained minister, I know the power in speaking out on behalf of others whose rights are being denied, as shared by some dear, close friends who identify with the LGBTQ community. it is one thing to speak up in small circles but on a national stage the fear sets in for me. Being a female, who is ordained in the Baptist denomination already carries its own sets of risk. Knowing that someone else shares fears like I do helps me to know that I am not alone and that I am still on this journey, growing in Christ and becoming who I am meant to be in Christ, and that struggle is synonymous with the journey.

  • Jim B

    I just do not understand – I am Southern and I know there are a lot of bigots out there that put down Southerners for – being Bigots – I know this is not true and I know there are many loving Southerners that would never support this kind of Hate – but it just seems that the Carolinas North and South seem to have a lot more of this than most – - I sat with Sean Kennedy;s mother here in Tallahassee a year ago and I could not help the tears that flowed from my eyes – Sean’s Last Wish a group that was formed as a result of his brutal murder at the hands of the kind of demon just like Whorly except he was also a kid and only spent a year in jail for brutally murdering Sean in a premeditated way in front of a club. You are right to be concerned about showing affection, there are hounds from hell out there that will surely make you regret it.

  • Linda

    Have you ever read Revelation 22, particularly verse 15, which talks about the people outside the city of God, kind of sounds like the Lord Jesus will put up a His own fence to keep wicked people out of His city.

    ” Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” (Rev 22:14-15)

  • http://www.touchpractice.com Kevin Smith

    This is such a beautifully written and balanced exploration of this topic. I applaud you for your courage and insight. Many blessings, Kevin Smith

  • http://inourelements.com Stann Dotson

    Wonderful reflection. I wrote about Rev Worley and another potential response, a step beyond occupying, in my blog today: http://inourelements.com/1-daily-passages/f-words. Would welcome feedback.

  • mary

    I really enjoyed reading your blog. I am not gay but have some nieces who are but the main reason it offended me what the pastor said was because of civil rights. No one should say those things about anyone no matter what they do. It would be like saying I want this person dead because they have red hair or because they are prostitutes or because they have abortions or because of the color of their skin. I live 2 miles from the church and 5 miles from the government center in newton where the protest will be. I want to go but I’m a little afraid someone might do something stupid and I could get hurt

    • Kimberly Knight

      Mary,

      I really appreciate you reading and taking a moment to comment and share a bit of your story. I really do understand your fear, my own trepidation is growing but I feel certain I must be there to support the locals who
      Want to show the world that civil rights, decency and love can outshine bigotry and hate – even here in the south with such hateful and shameful past.

      I’ll cherish your prayers as we assemble near by.

  • http://www.breathinggrace.com Raine

    Maiden, NC is about 30 minutes away from me, God willing, my husband, my son, and I will be there on Sunday to join the protest. I’m torn on this in a way – nothing like what what you must feel with all of the gay-hatred out there, but still a little afraid due to circumstances of my own making. I was raised IFB and have a lot of friends in the fundamentalist community, including many in my current church (we aren’t IFB but most of us were raised in those churches and it is still very conservative). Part of me is worried about being recognized and worried about being ostracized – I’ve already pissed off quiet a few people with my open opposition to Amendment One.

    On the other hand, I feel obligated to stand against this man and his hate. As a straight Christian fundamentalist, I spent too many years ignoring or supporting this sort of speech and allowing it to go unchallenged. Since then, I’ve realized that it was wrong and I have seen the hurt that this type of attitude has caused so many gay people, both inside and outside of the church. I want to apologize to any LGBT who may read this for any hurt they have suffered at the hands of Christians, and I will be there on Sunday and any other time I hear my God being used as a shield for hate, to speak against it.

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  • Jake Horner

    I wonder what would happen if the protest went inside the church of that small raisin hearted man and lifted their voices with the love of Jesus in worship? And demonstrated the love of Jesus to that community? [I have to confess that sounds better than writing papers for seminary,which is what I 'm going to be doing]

    • Kimberly Knight

      Jake,

      While I would love to sing of God’s love in a place that dearly needs to hear it I would never want to enter another’s place of worship as an act of protest. Interestingly enough, I was a pastor of a little church that experienced the grief of having worship disrupted by so-called extreme right Christians who would show up and intentionally disrupt our prayer, praise and and fellowship to claim that we were not real Christians since a female, even worse a lesbian was their servant leader. No matter how shrunken and withered the hearts may be I guess I feel even they have a right to their “sacred” space. The surrounding land around the church, now that’s another matter and I look forward to standing and shining peaceful love toward Worley and the world.

    • kelly

      wonderful idea.

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  • erins1911

    Funny you bring this up, I have been thinking a lot about public displays of affection between gay people lately. I am new to this world, having just discovered who I am in the last few months. While I don’t have anyone to display such affection towards at this point, when I do, I look forward to doing so at every possible moment. Having lived as a hetero until just recently, and having taken for granted my freedom to express physical affection without people looking at me funny or whispering things behind my back or – as you point out – becoming righteously indignant or violent, I am baffled that the homosexual world has put up with such treatment for so long. I do not intend to. I mean, what the heck, we are human beings, too. When we refrain from touching or kissing or hand-holding in public, to some extent, we accept within ourselves the hetero world’s appraisal of us. Granted, there are times when personal or family safety is at stake and that has to be taken into consideration (one of the reasons that I am glad I regularly carry). But there are probably a lot more situations where we should not hesitate. And that having the courage to show love, despite the looks, etc., could change the world.

    • Parhelion

      Answering only for myself, after growing up beneath a bombardment of disapproval and punishment for that part of my nature, enough courage for public displays of affection had to be built up quiet choice by quiet choice. Along the way, dramatic or violent reactions to other people’s dislike of my actions proved to be a cheap shortcut that was rooted in nothing more than another form of fear, one I eventually realized was making me behave more like those to whom I was reacting than I liked.

      Not that I’m any sort of example of some ideal way to behave. But, these days, people looking at me funny or whispering things I don’t hear because I did something good and natural like holding hands with my spouse tells me I am at least doing what I feel needs doing: living my life as best I can. It’s not putting up with, it’s — to borrow a term that’s not culturally mine — witness.

  • Jeffrey
    • http://thoughts-musings.com Steve Lindsley

      Thanks for the share! (or “she” ;-) Kimberly, best of luck to you and everyone on Sunday!

  • http://www.southandout.com/ Amy X.

    Any show of support from the LGBTQ+ community will be a beacon of hope for the gay kids in that church and community, and I hope a lot of people show up. But there are many ways to protest. If you can’t make it in person, rest assured that your words are already countering his hateful message.


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