Rocky Reconciliation

Today’s guest post is brought to you by Sally Evans.  Sally is currently on a journey of reconciliation in Louisville, Kentucky where she works in prevention education at the University of Louisville. She also dabbles in voice over work, writing, music, and calligraphy. She can be reached at sevansix@gmail.com.  Sally finds the natural world a continual source of inspiration and grace, and here she shares reflections on how Lent and Easter can be helpful reflections on reconciliation, as we turn towards Holy Week.

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While at Natural Bridge State Park recently, I paused at the base of the stone bridge where tall slabs of rock closed in on both sides of the trail, leaving only a slender path. I stood there, with immovable rock rising on either side, and thought about what it was like to move through the world flanked with the identities of gay and Christian.

Many of us can relate to the ongoing shimmy between conflicting dualities, bracing ourselves between God and church, partner and family, Republican and Democrat, true self and Facebook self. This agonizing schism began for me several years ago when, as a spunky youth pastor in a small congregation, I wrestled with this confusing ‘connection’ with the same sex, resulting in a life altering realization that gay and Christian could not coexist. This led to years of jumping from one “side” to the other, the tension between these worlds intimidating. For a long time I ran from exploring this tension out of fear, settling in on one wall or the other. Either I was tucked away at a Bible College in my knee length skirt surrounded by ‘answers’ or I was immersed in the local LGBT Center coming out group of acceptance and unflinching tolerance. Either I was in an ex-gay community or I was the ‘out’ hall director at the state college. Either I was white-knuckling no contact with my girlfriend or we were living together. Author Sue Monk Kidd describes the result of this pattern in When The Heart Waits, saying,

“Before long we have an entire hidden orphanage inside of us—a group of lost and alienated parts that we’ve banished.”

How long can we ignore these voices? These parts of ourselves that ache to be reconciled? Eventually a perilous and often cynical gap can grow between our faith and sexuality.  In addition to our personal discord, the divisive nature of this issue in the world around us is inescapable.  Almost daily the media informs us of protests between Christian groups and the gay community, policies passed then appealed, victories for one side that are losses for the other. Depending on the news source we may hear of the same bill described as anti-gay or as a religious freedom bill, and friends post passionate links to reinforce their position.

And there we stand, voices rising on either side of the path.

The season of Lent is traditionally a time for repentance and reflection on matters such as these, for embracing the dissonance between who we are and who we are called to be, what to let go of and what to grow into, even the natural world is in a seasonal limbo between winter and spring. It is another divine invitation to go beyond where we are. What if this holy dark was an essential part of growth? What if this cocoon could transform these broken places into freedom and beauty? If we let it, I believe this suffering can work to ‘easter’ in us a new experience of expanded life and love.

And isn’t Easter all about reconciling opposite worlds? The act of Christ’s death was designed to bring together God and humankind, heaven and earth, Jew and Gentile, sinful self with our true image of God. God’s desire is for us is to move toward wholeness and healing, ultimately uniting those parts of us that live in this tension. Ephesians 2: 14-17 (NRSV) reminds us,

“For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace,  and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.”

I believe all this, yet it is so hard to sit with the questions. Sometimes I cannot see much change. I am not sure what exactly to hope for. It still feels like the middle of winter.

As you continue on this journey of Lent, I challenge you to wait in the darkness where these tensions live, try to reconnect with those lost parts or yourself, and be open to the life and reconciliation that only a resurrected God can give. As spring unfolds around you this season, take heart in the transformation of earth and trees, even if all you can manage is a broken hallelujah at the moment. Jesus too was closed in by immovable rock, a waiting room of darkness. I take heart that he did not stay in that place. I take heart that his transformation was not due to his own tireless efforts. I take heart that he emerged.

And so will we.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~WHAT ABOUT YOU?~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 What increases your hope in the ‘between a rock and a hard place’ moments?

*This post is co-published at the Heidi’s Patheos blog, Questianity.

Monday News: Uganda’s New Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Today (Feburary 24, 2014), Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a controversial anti-gay bill into law, despite international outcry. The bill, called the ‘Jail the Gays Bill,’  originally called for the death penalty for homosexual acts when it was first proposed in 2009.  Although the death penalty was removed from the final draft, prison sentences of 7 years, 14 years, and life are the new penalties for violating this law. 

 Under this law, LGBT people face life imprisonment if:

  • someone engages in a sexual act with a person of the same gender
  • someone marries a person of the same gender
  • someone touches another person of the same gender with ‘intent’ to engage in a sexual act

Also, prison sentences for anyone(including a straight person) who tries to support LGBT people:

  • 7 years in jail for officiating a marriage between people of the same sex
  • 7 years in jail for trying to aid or counsel LGBT people
  • 5-7 years in jail for offering premises or supplies to LGBT related activities
  • 5-7 years in jail for directors of any business or non-governmental organization (NGO) who supports LGBT people
  • Similarly, any national or international company or human rights organization in Uganda, which supports lesbian, gay, bi or trans people (including their own employees), could face 7 years jail and de-registration of the company (Montreal Gazette). 

Human rights groups like Amnesty International have expressed concern that this law could essentially outlaw much of their work in Uganda, making it extremely difficult to legally advocate for increased gay rights, or even offer adequate health services to LGBT Ugandans.

Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights warned the law was “formulated so broadly that it may lead to abuse of power and accusations against anyone”.

 According to President Museveni:

“Homosexuals are actually mercenaries. They are heterosexual people but because of money they say they are homosexuals. These are prostitutes because of money,” Musaveni said.

He added “there is something really wrong with you” if you were gay, adding that he didn’t understand how a man could “fail to be attracted to all these beautiful women and be attracted to a man”.

The LGBT community in Uganda face frequent harassment and threats of violence, and rights activists have reported cases of lesbians being subjected to “corrective” rapes.

In 2011, Ugandan gay rights campaigner David Kato was bludgeoned to death at his home after a newspaper splashed photos, names and addresses of gays in Uganda on its front page along with a yellow banner reading “Hang Them”.

Currently, there is a petition from All Out that is calling on Ugandan leaders, global governments, corporations and religious institutions to take forceful action to denounce the law. To sign this petition, go to http://www.allout.org/kill-the-bill.

Amnesty International Statement

 

 

At LOVEboldly we embrace controversy, dissenting opinions and even a good debate now and then. However, we also value civility, kindness, and respect. Therefore, please feel free to share your opinion, but keep it constructive, considerate, and civilized. If you choose to be rude we will delete your comment. Do so consistently and we will ban you. And yes, we do get to define the terms.

Monday News: Anti-LGBTQ Violence in Russia

LOVEboldly is starting a weekly blog post highlighting current events in the LGBTQ community. Every Monday we will blog about a specific topic/story that we believe the Church should be aware. 
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Right now, there are laws being passed in other countries that make it illegal to be LGBTQ or even be associated with supporting this community’s rights. Prison sentences, torture, and the death penalty are possible punishments for violating these laws. Although there are numerous laws being passed or already passed criminalizing homosexuality, we want to bring attention to what’s happening in Russia.

During June 2013, President Vladimir Putin signed a new law banning the ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships’ to minors. This law makes it illegal to hold any gay pride events, speak in defense of gay rights, or say that gay relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships.

The federal law defines propaganda as:

 “distribution of information that is aimed at the formation among minors of nontraditional sexual attitudes, attractiveness of non- traditional sexual relations, misperceptions of the social equivalence of traditional and non-traditional sexual relations, or enforcing information about non-traditional sexual relations that evokes interest to such relations . . . .”

Since the law passed, there has been a surge in violence against the LGBTQ community. Self-proclaimed vigilantes have targeted LGBTQ persons with both public and private acts of brutality and torture. For example, a group called ‘Occupy Paedophilia‘ has been on what they call a ‘safari’ hunting gays. Videos of this group’s violent attacks document incidents where unsuspecting LGBTQ teens are lured through online dating sites and then brutally humiliated and tortured.

According to the Spectrum Human Rights Alliance (SHRA):

“These self-proclaimed ‘crime fighters’ perform their actions under the broad day light, often outside and clearly visible to the general public that indifferently passes by or even commends them.”

“Video recordings of bullying and tortures are freely distributed on the Internet in order to out LGBT teens to their respective schools, parents and friends. Many victims were driven to suicides, the rest are deeply traumatized.”

There are reports that other Russian citizens have also attacked openly LGBTQ persons in public areas, while onlookers do nothing to prevent the violence from occurring. Several government officials have denounced and degraded LGBTQ people on television and in other media.

Sadly, groups of Russian Christians have been reported as participating in some of these public attacks (CBS report).

(For more information: CNNThe Guardian, CBS News)

 

LOVEboldly condemns these and any acts of violence against the LGBTQ community. 
Be sure to watch for a future blog post where we provide practical ways you can help the LGBTQ community in Russia as well as other places where this violence is occurring. 

 

Even the Christian who cannot feel comfortable supporting or protecting LGBTQ relationships should be appalled by the brutality to the community (and for that matter – brutality to any person as we are all made in the image of God.

 

At LOVEboldly we embrace controversy, dissenting opinions and even a good debate now and then. However, we also value civility, kindness, and respect. Therefore, please feel free to share your opinion, but keep it constructive, considerate, and civilized. If you choose to be rude we will delete your comment. Do so consistently and we will ban you. And yes, we do get to define the terms.