We Have To Make This Stop

You do not have to watch the video.

 

Others I’ve spoken to have watched it and have wept. Others have had to shut down for a few hours. And others hit X when they simply could not stomach anymore of it. So no, you don’t have to watch it.

 

If you’re considering watching the video, think hard about how much you can take.

 

When I watched it I had a hard time breathing for a few minutes. My faith in the inherent goodness of people was swallowed up in the darkness because- My God- there is such darkness out there. Such terror and coldness and heartbreak out there.

 

Oh, and by “out there”, I mean in Fundamentalist world.

 

In the video, a nineteen-year-old kid has been called into (presumably) his mother’s living room for what he understands to be an intervention. He says he recorded the whole thing on his phone so he would have a record, should anything bad happen.

 

Present are his grandmother, stepmother and father. The kid is told that he must leave the house because of his chosen path; they can’t be seen by the community as tolerating that kind of life. He has to go. The kid turns to his stepmother for mercy, which leads to her becoming furious and then, she charges him, punches him. As he scrambles to his feet, his father, who has been silent all this time, is heard calling him a “queer!” and then the most heartbreaking thing.

 

It all settles into a quiet for a second, and then his dad says:

 

“You’re a disgrace. You are.”

If you watch the video, do not read the comments. I have not read them, but I’ve heard, as usual, they are abhorrent.

 

Justin Lee writes over at his blog:

 

“This video of a 19-year-old being kicked out of the house (and physically assaulted) for being gay is extremely disturbing to watch/listen to, but it is the kind of story I have heard many, many, many times over the years.

This is why I do what I do and the reason I’ve worked so hard at The Gay Christian Network for so many years, giving up free time and a social life, donating everything I can back to the organization I work for. THIS HAS TO STOP, and we have to be the ones to make it stop.”

 

We have to be the ones to make it stop.

40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ.

We have to make it stop.

 

First, if you are kid who has lost your bed because you were brave and honest and followed Jesus in a leap of faith, please read through the above letters, the “Love Letters.” Sit with them. Let my friends speak truth to you.

 

Second, if you are a person who has abandoned your child or is in a struggle with your child or a parent at all (no parent knows their kid is LGBTQ until they tell them) then please read this piece I wrote.

 

Furthermore, I have been asked, often, by fellow Jesus followers who love their LGBTQ friends and family and want to make a difference in the greater scheme of things where, exactly, they can turn to make that difference. Below are some doors. Some immediate actions you can take right now. Right this second.

 

Donate to the Gay Christian Network.

GCN does so much and I’m so indebted to them. They’re a nonprofit that relies heavily on donations. The work they do spans many areas in the LGBTQ community (though the title is less inclusive, it reflects more the beginnings of the organization, which was started by a gay Christian.)

 

Donate to the Marin Foundation

Not everyone at the progressive end of the room agrees with them. I have some disagreements as well. But apart from being bridge-builders bringing together LGBTQ Christians and Conservative Evangelical Christians, they do a hell of a lot of really good work with parents of LGBTQ kids. They made a huge impact in my family. I would also encourage you to buy founder Andrew Marin’s book, Love is an Orientation. Such a great book to start from.

 

Donate to the Reformation Project

The Reformation Project was founded by one of the most promising voices currently in Christianity. Matthew Vines published on youtube a sermon he gave to his church in Wichita, Kansas about why same-sex relationships are not immoral, but should be celebrated. The video (which can be watched here) went viral. Matthew followed this up by not only penning his own book (which can be bought here), but also by starting the Reformation Project. This group of young activists meet together to study the Bible, LGBTQ issues, and return to their churches equipped and empowered to enact needed changes in their communities to make them more welcoming, loving and inclusive.

 

There are also a number of other organizations to donate to:

 

Avenues for Homeless Youth (a local shelter here in Minneapolis)

 

The Ali Forney Center has a list for LGBTQ Shelters in every city

 

Parents should be following Susan Cottrell’s blog and Linda Robertson’s and for parents of trans kids should be watching this video by Debi Jackson

 

Other resources such as books and blog posts can be found under the “Resources” tab.

 

We need to make this stop. It is the test of our time. And it is happening every damn day.

 

“We are responsible for the world in which we find ourselves, if only because we are the only sentient force which can change it.” – James Baldwin

On #Ferguson

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Often I wonder how much more news I am receiving because of my involvement online: I’m on twitter, regularly reading and sharing blogs, interacting with people in comments and tweets. Most of my friends don’t do this. Last night, I figured that out.

 

On my iPad, I scrolled through twitter, up and down over images that left me confused, panicked, and breathless. I couldn’t stop thinking: Isn’t this America?

Well, maybe it is.

Maybe I am just seeing this America for the first time, or maybe I’ve just forgotten about her dark, racist, violent streak. Cognitive Dissonance can be a powerful thing, blocking out things I do not want to see. But no matter: here she is. And I can’t stop seeing her.

 

APFerguson

 

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This is America, and here, apparently, the line between police and paramilitary, between self defense and aggravated assault, is so blurred that peaceful suburban protests by black people are to be leveled over by the hand of the state. All the big tactics are to be employed: the rapid fire of rubber bullets and tear gas landing in the lawns of family homes, the shutting down of public schools, the arrests of journalists (WHAT?), all while tanks steamroll down boulevards of a suburb. YEP.

 

 POLICE HAVE ARMY TANKS. NEWS TO ME.

 

I was seeing this all play out on citizen shot videos, but you know, I was looking up at the TV, switching from news channel to 24 hour news channel and it was as if nothing was happening at all. If a town turns into a violent invasion, will the news cover it? Depends on the town. Depends on the people. Depends on what the media heads deem worthy of news.

 

I went to a friends’ house and the first thing I said as I walked in the door was, have you guys been following the stuff in Ferguson?

 

They were watching a movie, both shrugged. What?

 

Ferguson! I said exasperated and then began blurting all the things I had been reading, watching, listening to- all the chaos occurring in America!

 

Oh, yah.

 

One friend said, to which I sighed in relief: Finally.

 

Didn’t someone burned down a gas station?

 

That was all he knew. In the small cloud of media coverage over the last few days, the looting that occurred was what thundered through loudest, gained the most coverage and overshadowed everything else. Including murder by police.

 

Mike Brown? Who? They had no idea. What happened? No idea.

 

They had no idea that the context of the situation began with an innocent 18-year-old kid being gunned down by a police officer. He was unarmed. He held his hands up and said Don’t shoot! His body was left on the hot pavement in the middle of the day for hours on end (4 hours to be exact). And I have yet to hear an official explanation for why. It feels… there are no words.

 

What they knew was that black people in a town in Missouri burned down a gas station. What they knew was that’s how it started. They had no idea why there was looting in the first place. Because, MEDIA.

 

This is where White Privilege comes in and I will be the first to say, I don’t understand all the dynamics of it. But I’m pretty sure it has something to do with blindness and deafness, with how a culture frames the picture for us (white people) to fit the narrative we’ve been told (blacks are innately criminal). It has to do with so much rage over a gas station burning down, but then suspicion and/or plain ignorance over an innocent black man murdered. It has to do with the images. If you haven’t checked out the hashtag #iftheygunnedmedown (you probably haven’t heard about it) you should. It’s pictures of black people posting two images side by side, asking which one the media would use if police (or white people in general, a la George Zimmerman) killed them.

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Below is Michael Brown (which picture do you think the Media used?)

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I am learning to listen better and see more. I wish it hadn’t taken a whole town to be under siege before my very eyes to notice, but I am noticing now, the wide extent of my privilege and today I am sitting in it. I am feeling it. And I am trying to figure out how to be better.

 

Here’s one way you can start: INFORM YOURSELF.

 

We need to sit down, hat in hand, and listen to these voices. The truth they tell is uncomfortable, it is convicting, and you have choice here.

Will you embrace the discomfort of realizing your complicity?

Or will you wind the knob down into silence?

Your choice.

 

America is not for Black People by Greg Howard

 

This Is Why We’re Mad About The Shooting of Michael Brown by Kara Brown

 

Do Black Lives Matter In Our Community? by Nekima Levi Pounds

 

Hands Up, Don’t Shoot: the images that define Ferguson’s Protests by Lauren Williams

 

The Night Social Media Exploded Over Ferguson by Chris Taylor

 

To find more links: Visit Further Up & Further In

 

If you’re in the Twin Cities, their will be a vigil tonight around 5:30 PM, which you can find details for here

When Words Fail [Deeper Story]

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Was a little bit busy yesterday, so I forgot to post here that I wrote something over at Deeper Story. It’s about art and the healing process and how, in the midst of an unspeakable time in my life, I found God in creativity.

 

The start:

 

Across her lap was my notebook, college ruled and crinkled from use. I had been writing songs in it, per her suggestion that I channel my inner angst up and out of myself and into something creative.

I sat slack on the couch, eyes sagging low from last night’s insomnia and waited for her to finish. She turned the pages slowly as if they were aged documents. A couple times she scratched her cheek. Looked up with a smile. Looked back down.

“You are, you say, “a thousand puzzle pieces with no one to put you back together”?” She asked, repeating a chorus line. I nodded. I explained, “Yes, yes, I am because I’m all broken up inside and no one knows how to fix me. I can’t figure out how to fix me. If you look at another poem, I note that God could fix me, but he doesn’t.” She flipped a couple pages ahead. “Ah.” She said. “He is watching you fall with, you say, ‘pitiless eyes’?”

After a couple weeks of me writing and her reading, we concluded that while writing was a tremendous tool for sorting out our stuff, gaining perspective and clearing a path toward healing, it wasn’t what I needed. It was actually awful for me.

Read the rest over at Deeper Story

The Book I Needed to Read

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This past spring, I stopped seeing human beings on Twitter.

 

I saw avatars and opinions and in my head, I collected the few things I knew about the few “profiles” I disliked the most and then concluded I knew them, in total. I could explain their lives to them. I certainly could tell them about their deepest, darkest faults and I could even practice some arm chair psychology, making hypotheses about childhoods plagued by playground incidents which led them to become cold and dead inside as adults. Oh, I knew them.

 

Now, since in my subconscious they were no longer humans, but some kind of sub-human, I responded to them in kind. I called them names. I questioned their intelligence. I said I was calling out justice, but justice was more of a nice coattail to my tirade of rage and pride. And when it finally hit me, all the damage I had done- to people, I took some time away from blogging. And tried my very damndest to stay off twitter.

 

So it’s fitting that during this season I began reading Speak by Nish Weiseth. She is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of A Deeper Story, an online collaborative that I was so honored to become a part of this year. She has been active in the blogging world for years, partnering with World Vision to go investigate and then tell stories of lives impacted by the organizations’ aid work, she is the mother to two beautiful children and she lives in Salt Lake City.

 

She has also written a book that needs to be read by everyone.

 

Speak is for everyone.

 

It is a gift and triumph. It came into my life and stopped my full descent into internet cynicism. Into mechanical relationship. It stopped and reminded me that I am flesh and blood and beloved, and so is everyone else, including The Gospel Coalition. In many ways, it helped me reorient in the landscape that is the Internet.

 

Nish leads you by the hand through countless stories that shatter stale notions of black and white. Stories about gun control and poverty and feeling burned by the church. She cracks open the events and asks you to simply notice, feel, understand that there is a depth here, nuance and complexity, and since the problems we face are so steep, we need to learn to start right and well. We need to learn to Speak.

 

I was also blown away by the storytelling nature of Jesus. I mean, obviously, he was a storyteller, but I so quickly forget that and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I often make him to be my own puppet of my pet opinions, maybe it’s because I don’t read the Bible enough… Whatever the case, this book illuminated for me the fact that Jesus’ preaching through storytelling stands in direct contrast to the way we like to fashion him into an either-or. That he was a God who spoke in nuance, giving his people ample space to sit and digest the biggest questions before them.

 

I am pragmatic by nature, so I was pleased with the insights she offers into how you go about finding your gifts and passions. It is very practical, very straightforward and it immediately set off some thoughts in my head about what my story truly is about, on a deeper level, and it also made me wonder about all these stories all around me. People learning about themselves and about the world, containing so much needed truth within them, and yet, I am so easy to sketch out their caricature before they even say anything.

 

It is a book that is maybe timely for all of us. We face so much that has not been met, progress that feels very one step forward two steps back. And we also are slowly drifting away from each other. Into our own echo chambers. Into the quiet of our study where the license to judge is unaccountable and wild. It is a book that reins us back in. Reminds us of the human heart.

 

I am grateful for what this book did for me. After reading it, I was pushed to become more human here in this space, to bridge the technological chasm as best as I can, revealing my story in the hope that others might speak theirs. And I am confident, following the wisdom of Nish’s words, that I will be better.

 

If you are interested in purchasing this book, buy it here. I assure you, you will not regret it.