An Apology to My Daughter

My Dear Daughter,

I’ve been thinking about you ever since the news a few days ago.

Every time I try to find the words to talk about this to you, they jumble all together, swelling up and getting stuck in my throat. Tears quickly well up in my eyes, and all I can manage is a barely audible, “I’m sorry.”

I am.

I am so very sorry.

I’m sorry for America.

It has failed you.

I’ve lived all of my life believing in this country, believing that we would never go backwards, only forwards. I believed that there were enough good people here to prevent the terribly ugly things of our past from becoming our terrifying present. I rested in the trust I had in the greater collective humanity here being enough. I had faith in the center holding and in our better angels prevailing.

I was wrong.

When your mother and I chose to bring you into this world, we never dreamed that you would spend a second of your life without the elemental freedoms over your body, over your decisions, over the care you receive from doctors. We knew you would face the challenges of living in a nation that still offered so much resistance to your progress, so many caustic messages about your self-worth, so much opposition to your full equality—but this… this was unthinkable.

We’re so very sorry—not for choosing you or for your beautiful life, but for you having to know the fear and the worry and feelings of less-than that women here have not had to endure for decades, because they and people before them fought so terribly hard for so long.

There are so many reasons for us being here right now: so much collective laziness and greed, so many opportunistic people who sacrificed your choice on the altar of their phony religion, so much first-hand and internalized misogyny. I wish I could rewind and help change even one small thing that would give you a different nation and a different day to wake up in today.

But since I can’t do that, I can only give you these promises in the present and for the future:

I will never stop fighting for you.
I will spend the resources I have to make sure the place you call home becomes more deserving of you.
I will never back down from awkward conversations with our families.
I will never hold my tongue in a crowd of strangers.
Whenever laziness or fatigue or sadness make me drift toward hopelessness and inaction, I will think of you and of every other daughter in this nation, and I will propel myself back into the fight because you are worth that.

I know it’s probably very scary right now, especially hearing mommy and daddy saying they’re scared, too. Just know that we will be with you in the darkness and we will chase every every real demon and every imagined monster and we will fight for the light.

I’m sorry for America and the way it has so grievously let you down.
I’m sorry for the Church we once called home and for the way it dehumanized you.
I’m sorry for our relatives and friends who chose their tribalism over your choices.
I’m sorry that I was not louder or more involved or more aware of the danger.

Most of all, I am sorry to you and to every daughter in this nation who had no choice in being born here or calling it your home, and now do.

You deserve better.

The Americans Still Awaiting Emancipation From Slavery

On June 19th 1865, Federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to declare the emancipation of all Americans, of every slave being freed.  The Emancipation Proclamation had been issued two-and-a-half years earlier by President Lincoln, but as a result of the geographic fractures created by the war, many strongholds of institutionalized racism existed. Texas was the final area of this nation to surrender to this particular bend of the arc of the moral universe toward racial justice—and someone had to forcefully bring them the news they’d refused to come to terms with: the war was over.

59 years later, from the Birmingham jail where he was imprisoned for being a participant in nonviolent demonstrations against segregation, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote a response to a public statement of concern issued by eight white Southern religious leaders. In his address, King lamented both white political moderates and the white Christian Church for hindering progress toward equality, either by their inaction or through outright opposition by criticizing the timing and method of protests. These tactics are all too familiar today.

We wake up in a nation where Juneteenth and MLK Day are both national holidays—yet where an entire political party is working incessantly to prevent teachers from teaching that the decades of ugliness that precipitated the civil rights movement even existed.

All the slaves and prisoners in America are not yet emancipated.

157 years following the last holdouts of the confederacy facing the reality of the war ending, and 59 years after Dr. King’s letter lamenting white resistance to progress, our shared sickness remains.

The symptoms of this slavery and imprisonment are apparent in the disparity in the rates of incarceration between white people and people of color,
in the disparity in pay for equal work,
in the disproportionate accessibility to healthcare and education and voting rights and affordable housing,
in the lack of people of color in positions of power and leadership,
in the lopsided history of police brutality,
in historic generational poverty.

But these truths themselves are not the slavery and imprisonment that most afflict this nation. Our greatest collective ailment is not a literal confinement or physical imprisonment, it is the white supremacy, privilege, and resistance to equality within the hearts so many white Americans that is still hindering humanity: the conscious and subconscious prejudices presently permeating us.

You can see it in the responses to the murder of George Floyd, to the gerrymandering a and voter suppression efforts of the Republican Party, to the white supremacy embodied in the MAGA movement. And, as Dr King grieved in Birmingham, you can still find it in the lukewarm response of so many professed  progressive white people in the face of it all.

Whether due to fatigue or laziness or fear or aversion to conflict, human beings who wouldn’t advocate for slavery or deny people of color a vote or celebrate police brutality or wave confederate flags or intentionally perpetuate systemic racism—still  enable it all by their silence and inaction and intentional distractions.

Bob Marley once sang, “emancipate yourself from mental slavery,” and we in white America who want to imagine ourselves anti-racist need to embrace this invitation in the core of our beings. The internal servitude of our countrymen and women is being aided by people like us who would rather keep an uneasy peace in our families, marriages, churches, workplaces, and social circles, than enter into the fray of honest conversations about race.

157 years after the events of Juneteenth, white America needs to work for the “emancipated minds” of so many white Americans: for the freeing of people from the fear, bigotry, selfishness, greed, and hatred that still perpetuate racism, inequity, and injustice.

Because of that, we need to continue march into the fortified strongholds of racism, and to the last holdouts against equality—in our homes and neighborhoods and schools and churches, and then to the polls—and declare that all people are not yet free and deserve to be free. We need to release white Americans from bad theology, predatory politics, lack of information, unconfronted privilege that maintain this sickening status quo. Until this happens, the cancer of racism will remain and slavery will not be in our regrettable past—but in our grievous present and our disfigured future.

People of color can be legally free, but until more white Americans are emotionally, intellectually, mental emancipated from prejudice and privilege, we will still be here 157 years from now, fighting over the value of a black life. This nation doesn’t need more ceremonial holidays, we need more courageous caucasian people who will invite discomfort, sustain bruises, welcome turbulence, and risk relational separation from our tribes of affinity and communities of origin, for the sake of disparate humanity in a time of urgency.

The fight against racism is not the fight of people of color alone. We who are white “moderates” (or progressives or liberals or simply decent human beings) need to be more vocal in our anti-racism and more willing to be disobedient to laws and accepted norms and popular movements that are inherently racist. We have to risk the kind of relational and social “tension” that MLK described in his letter; the kind millions of others have willingly engaged in the cause of equality.

This will mean that white Americans will need to confront those they know, love, worship and work alongside, and those live and socialize with—with the ugliness of who we have been and in many ways still are.

157 years after Juneteenth, there are still barricaded holdouts to ratified prejudice who need to hear that all people deserve to be free.

We need to lovingly but loudly bring that message to those still waging a war inside their heads that desperately needs to end.

We are not free until we are all free.

The True March for Our Lives is To the Polls

Marches are powerful things.

They are a necessary visual reminder that we are not alone.
They help provide a sense of agency in dark days, to right size the threats that seem so towering and overpowering.
They give us a chance to stand with a tribe of affinity and be a tangible response to the things that burden us.

Marches are awe-inspiring, goosebump-inducing, breathtakingly cathartic moments.

But marches don’t vote.

They can’t craft legislation and they won’t protect people in danger.
Marches won’t jettison corrupt leaders from their well-fortified perches of power. They can’t reach into the  labyrinthine hallways and cloistered rooms where those charged with protecting us, decide our fates.
They can’t tip the scales of our political process back toward balance.

All over this nation, millions of Americans, stood in a public space with a small army of like hearted people and loudly declared the America we desire and the America we will not abide.

We spoke out against senseless violence and predatory politicians and toxic systems.
We cheered and applauded and exhorted one another, and we cultivated hope together for one another.
It was so very good for the weary soul starved for hope.

But even as I basked there in the radiant glow of disparate people, assembling to celebrate life and demand its defense; even as I joyfully gorged on the Tweets and photos streaming in from similar gatherings through the country; even as my eyes widened at the scale of the outpouring; even as I wiped the tears from my eyes at the courage of teenagers—I realized it could easily be for not.

Marches are indeed powerful things but they can’t hold a candle to votes.

Marches can encourage imperiled people for a day. Votes can save them for a lifetime.

To those who coordinated carpools and painted signs and braved rain and weathered heat and endured the taunts of angry people this weekend: this can’t be a landing pad, it has to be a launching pad.

As beautiful as the #MarchForOurLives was (and it surely was), if it doesn’t catalyze us into participating in and changing the political landscape, it will have been an exercise in self-medication; a temporary high that for a moment allows us to escape but does nothing to alter the terrifying reality we find ourselves in.

So here in the afterglow of such clear and glorious goodness, the real work begins.

We need to register to vote.
We need to register others to vote.
We need to canvas neighborhoods.
We need to financially support political candidates committed to equality, diversity, and justice;
to build social media groups and community organizations and interfaith partnerships;
to be as focused over many months as we were for a few days.

This is how we protect our children.
This is how we eject predatory politicians.
This is how we collapse the gun lobby.
This is how we dismantle the fake news of FoxNews.
This is how we eradicate white supremacy in Government.
This is how we protect Muslims and refugees and immigrants.
This is how we protect students and teachers from terror.
This is how we stand with bullied gay teenagers.
This is how we care for poor families and sick children and elderly couples.
This is how we help America be its best self.

In the wake of acts of gun violence at schools, millions of young people inspired and challenged us all in bold activism and we praised them applauded them.
They need us to do more than praise and applaud them.
They need us to do more than turn their images into icons we wear on our chests.
They need us to do more than shower them with our accolades.

They need us to do what we hadn’t done enough of until now.

They need us to enter the spaces they cannot and to be as passionate and persistent and courageous as they have been.

They need us to show up and cast votes on behalf of them.

Adults in America, we cannot let these students or the tens of millions children they represent down by letting this moment remain simply a moment.

We of every color and religious tradition, every political affiliation and gender identity, every nation of origin and sexual orientation—we need to march now and we need to not stop.

For these young people who are leading us now, and for those who will come after them; those committed to changing the world—we need to do our part.

We need to march all the way to November, all the way to the polls—and for all our lives.

Then, we’ll look back on this day not as merely a day of defiance and celebration, but as the beginning of a revolution.

 

 

A Pastor Exposes the Gay PRIDE Agenda

I’ve long heard rumors of the LGBTQ community’s insidious master plan to contaminate and corrupt our sweet cisgender heterosexual setup here on planet earth, and I decided I’d get to the bottom of it once and for all.

I’ve been a pastor in the local church for the past 25 years: listening, counseling, observing carefully. I’ve served at house churches and mega churches, at ones with pipe organs and ones with Marshall stacks, churches with wooden pews and ones with coffee bars.

This vast and lengthy resume has given me unprecedented behind-the-scenes access and close proximity to the hidden lives of tens of thousands of unsuspecting families. During that time, I’ve done some covert reconnaissance on our behalf and the raw, naked truth I’ve uncovered? Well, it’s a game-changer, to say the least.

I’m afraid that the horror stories you’ve heard on Conservative podcasts and in Right-wing TV reports and on Republican Twitter and in incendiary Sunday sermons are all-too true:

The Gay PRIDE Agenda is very, very real.

I feel the weight of responsibility to expose this truth; not to frighten you (though it certainly will) but to help arm you with the best plan of attack in the face of it. This list is by no means exhaustive mind you, but it will give you a good working understanding of the imminent, horrible menace threatening our cozy straight existence, even as you read these very words.

As much as I’ve been able to ascertain based on my research, the Gay PRIDE Agenda is this:

LGBTQ people want to work. They seem to enjoy careers; searching to discover them, studying to prepare for them, honing their craft to develop them, using their gifts and talents to nurture and expand them. In related matters, as unbelievable as it seems, they also apparently appear to get personal satisfaction from being employed, from working hard, from supporting their families financially, and from contributing to the global economy.

LGBTQ people want to buy stuff. Taking part in said global economy, they have a love for commerce and material goods that appears quite similar to our own. They like to purchase things; things like cars and lawnmowers and patio furniture and Apple products and even homes. Then, they enjoy going out to shop for stuff to put in those homes. They do so, both in person and online. LGBTQ people currently use all the same stores we straight people do (though like us, they rarely admit to shopping at Wal-Mart, either).

LGBTQ people want to eat. They enjoy shopping for, preparing, and consuming food of all varieties, gay and otherwise. While they sometimes conveniently and mercifully do this in the privacy of their own homes, they will at times have the stratospheric nerve to venture out to local public eating establishments where they can order and pay for food that someone else made. They seem to be quite fine with straight people doing this as well.

LGBTQ people want to go to church and worship God. Well, some of them, anyway. Contrary to popular belief, just like us straight folk many of them would also prefer to stay home all Sunday morning in their underwear eating cold pizza and watching football pre game shows. Others though, believe in God and as a result feel compelled to attend local area houses of worship and faith communities. While there, they brazenly insist on doing all the “straight” religious stuff: praying, singing, giving, reflecting, playing Wordle during the longer sermons. They apparently somehow feel as though worshiping God is a queer community option.

LGBTQ people want families. They don’t just want families (as frightening as that in itself is, they actually have them); spouses, partners, siblings, parents, children, cousins, weird uncles who smell like Cheetos and tell the same story every holiday about the time they thought they saw Bill Murray at the dog show. (It wasn’t incidentally, it was just an oversized labradoodle that resembled Murray). They insist on doing lots of “straight family” things, like going on vacations, to high school basketball games, to movies, to the park. They invite other families over to grill food, play in their backyards, sit on the front porches, and play with their non-Bill Murray-resembling dogs.

LGBTQ people want to create. Apparently gay+ folks have Muses too. They write songs, they paint and draw, they design bridges and buildings, and write novels and they scrapbook and microbrew beer and create LEGO cities and say it’s “for the kids.” They do all sorts of stuff that cis-hetero people do with their hands, minds, hearts, bodies, and voices, as they are inspired to—and they seem to believe that somehow all this “gay creativity” actually enriches the world. The gall.

LGBTQ people want to feel, fully. Shockingly, they claim to crave the same human interactions that we do. They aspire to tell stories, to tell Dad jokes, to remember and dream and show affection and fall in love and break-up and grieve a loved one’s passing and share a life-giving conversation with a friend over coffee. They dare to visit sick people in the hospital and reconnect with a childhood friend on social media and get really pissed at that guy who cuts into their lane at the last second even though he totally saw everybody merging over, three miles ago.

So, there you have it brothers and sisters: working, buying stuff, eating, worshiping God, not worshiping God, having families, creating, feeling. That’s the encroaching evil we’re up against here.

(Oh yeah, one more thing: it seems the LGBTQ people would like to work, study, create, shop, worship, feel, and love without being emotionally, physically, and legislatively attacked at every turn by phobic Christians who believe someone else’s body, relationship, marriage, kids, or bedroom is somehow their business.)

If I had more time, I’d go into gory detail about some other key, vile, dangerous components of the Gay PRIDE Agenda: to vote, pay taxes, take their kids to the dentist, binge watch Stranger Things, hold grudges, forgive, have health insurance, get haircuts, regret haircuts, fart and blame someone else, sing Karaoke, volunteer, throw-up on roller coasters, shop at Trader Joes, have weddings, go to weddings, avoid weddings, and watch Encanto with their toddler… again.

For now though, at the very least I’ve hopefully given you enough to know the devious, crafty, cunning enemy and what they’re up to.

In the face of the clear horror I’ve detailed for you here, you can now pray and reflect on and discuss together, your next move to adequately fight the Code Level Red threat of the Gay PRIDE Agenda.

To quote the old Saturday morning sages: “The more you know…”

Be strong and courageous, true believer.