How Creating Change Shot Me Home Raring to Go
Creating Change is the annual organizing conference of the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce. It is big, refreshing, challenging—great for running into old friends and making new ones—and generally awesome. Creating Change shot me home like the ball out of a cannon. Let me try to inspire similar enthusiasm in you by sharing some reflections on my experience there.
Of course, there was general rejoicing in the recent victories for the freedom to marry and other affirmations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people this past year. There was also substantial recognition that the faith organizing—LGBT people of faith reaching out to other people of faith—made a huge contribution to this progress, particularly in the electoral wins in Minnesota, Maine, Maryland and Washington. And there was also the clear, loud message that there can be no rest for the righteous. The work of LGBT Christians and allies has only begun.
I have known for some time that my calling is to reach out to those who most insistently oppose LGBT inclusion in the body of Christ and in society. The importance of this work was brought home to me in stunning fashion by the screening of a new documentary, God Loves Uganda. God Loves Uganda is about the export of the most hateful type of anti-gay extremism by American fundamentalist Christians. Efforts to criminalize LGBT people and their supporters, which include lifetime prison sentences or execution, are being organized and led by American fundamentalist leaders. After viewing the film, I went to a workshop with several activists from across the globe who documented the use of the same tactics in their countries as those in Uganda.
It is our responsibility to stem this spread of what we know is life-threatening to many, and poisonous to the Gospel. Stopping this will only happen through our relationships and conversations right here at home with conservative Christians. When their eyes are opened to what is being spread across the world in the name of Christ, they will then hopefully take the lead in bringing a stop to our evangelical colleagues. The evangelicals we know are by far the best messengers to those propagating extreme anti-gay doctrine here and abroad.
The crucial question is: How do we engage conservatives in such an effort?
Creating Change workshops with Jay Michaelson, Justin Lee, Believe Out Loud and PFLAG offered some answers. All four focused on the ways we approach and speak with those who disagree with us on God’s view of LGBT people. They shared a common message that I had not heard as clearly articulated before: Our conversations with those who differ with us are meant to help them along a road. The steps taken are the important things, not the destination we yearn for them to reach.
Here’s what I mean: conservative Presbyterians, for example, may not share our interpretation of Scripture, but they will share our horror at Christians advocating long prison sentences and even death for LGBT people or their loved ones who stand by them or anyone who publicly speaks up for the fair and humane treatment of LGBT people. When we share with them succinctly the situation spreading now to Nigeria and Malawi in Africa, the Caribbean, South America and Eastern Europe, there is a good chance they will take a step toward joining us in speaking against the practices of their fundamentalist colleagues.
Such conversations with many of us might, taken together, nudge them to the destination of agreeing with us and none of us will ever know they got there. But God will, and even one of these chats can move them along on their journeys. Such conversations are one important way we can work to halt the anti-gay efforts abroad riding on the back of Christian mission.
The PFLAG materials to strengthen allies among people of faith repeated several times that 8 in 10 Americans now report knowing an LGBT person. The LGBT community has done the courageous job of coming out. It is our work to highlight with every church person we know the question, “What would Jesus do?” in the situation of virulent anti-gay American Christian activities being exported to other nations. Evangelicals need not agree with us on everything in order to agree with us and work with us on this.
So, I came home raring to go. Among the first things I see to do is to inspire you to join with me in talking with those who disagree with us. I know how difficult this is for many. What struck me is the possibility that our hesitation arises from passionate expectations of getting them all the way to the destination of embracing God’s love for all. If we could, together, draw in our expectations for any one exchange to just moving our friends a step or two along the journey, then we are very likely to have some success. The stakes around the world are so very high (and there is still great need here at home, of course). Are you fired up and ready to go? Please say yes!