The Peculiar Timing of the Nashville Statement by The Southern Baptist Convention

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Pana Vasquez

I’ve been watching the news of the absolute devastation that has taken place in our country over the last week or so.

Houston, Texas, along with many other smaller communities along the Texas gulf coast was slammed hard by a massive Hurricane.

Yet in the midst of the wind and the rain, the destruction of homes by wind gusts topping 140 miles per hour, the wiping away of family homes and business, the upending of lives in an area so large it would cover Michigan from end to end, in the midst of turmoil and death, evangelical leaders decided at that particular moment to hold Houston’s head underneath the water.

150 ministers from the S.B.C gathered in Nashville to build and ratify a manifesto that takes aim homosexuality and trans-gendered folks. The language is divisive, it’s old age fundamentalist rhetoric, with debatable versus thrown in for good measure.

To a lot of people, including the Mayor of Nashville, found not only the statement appalling and not reflective of Nashville’s values, but people really questioned the timing giving what has transpired over the course of this past week as well as the ruining of many people’s lives, lively-hood, childhood homes, as well as the death of people caught in this terrible tropical storm.

I, however, am not looking at that.

The Southern Baptist Convention was formed to push back against the wave of northern Baptists’ vocal dislike over the institution of slavery years and years ago. It was created in Virginia on May 10, 1845, oddly enough, the very same state where the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights once prophesied that, “A national sin will cause a nation calamity.”

The sin: Slavery

The calamity: The Civil War

Do you ever sit back and wonder why the Civil War was so bad. Why so many people died? Why Jim Crow was so bad? Why the KKK was so powerful during the lynching years of the 1920s? You ever wonder why race is still, 17 years into the 21st century still such a hot topic of debate?

Look  no further that the Southern Baptist Convention. In short: These people used the Bible, the Holy Word of God, not to cover up the sin of owning, beating, selling, mutilating, raping, and murdering human beings, but to justify it. The ministers preached it out of the pulpits using some pretty impressive mental gymnastics and the ‘Sin of Ham’.

Heck it was southern ministers like Oral Roberts and Bob Jones Sr along with Jerry Falwell who, being furious over Brown v Board of Education, sued the government to be allowed to open whites only Christian schools using their 501c3.

They lost 8 -1

However, just a day or so ago, The S.B.C reached back into it’s utterly ungodly past and just like their predecessors raised the devil of bigotry and divisiveness once more.

This time, however, their beef wasn’t with the Northern Baptists and their sudden revulsion of the inhumane treatment of slaves that threated rich landowners. No. It was directed, purposefully, at a southern city in one of the proudest states this union has ever known. Houston.

Houston, Texas is the 3rd largest city in the United States. I believe it boasts the 13th largest G.D.P in the entire country. With a population of about 6 million people inside Houston proper and it’s outlying areas, the great city of Houston is a proud, beautiful, and diverse part of the gorgeous lady that calls her name Texas. A name derived from a Native American name Tejas meaning ‘Friend’ or ‘Ally’.

I hypothesis, leaning hard on ‘knowing’ because I was once a nut job fundi, that this storm provided a perfect time to condemn Houston for recently having an out, married, lesbian mayor Annise Parker who served her city for six years.

While the debate of Climate Change rages through the country, and through the world, these S.B.C ministers in their desire to cling to power, didn’t just pass condemnation of gay people and people who were trans-gendered. They decided to release this statement as a counter argument that God brought destruction to the Gulf Coast for Houston’s political decision in electing Mrs. Parker.

Alas, in the past 72 hours, when pastors like Joel Olsteen of Houston couldn’t be bothered to open the doors of his massive mega church to those in need, Texans did as Texans often do in these situations. They didn’t wait for help to arrive, they didn’t sit idly by while neighbors suffered, they didn’t blame people for their suffering, they didn’t do things for political reasons, although the Southern Baptist Convention surely did.

They became like Christ.

Even in their limited capacity as human beings to be perfect, political ideology died, racism died, divisions about sexual orientation died, gender, culture, heritage, all the things that serve to divide mankind into camps of ‘Us’ vs ‘ Them’ things that were nailed to the cross of human suffering  2,000 years ago and in this great hour of need mercy, charity, forbearance, benevolence, and the complex and fickle and hard to kill human spirit stepped in.

In the days and weeks ahead, there is going to be a lot of discussion over what happened in Houston. There is going to be a lot of money required to put these people’s lives back together. There will be homes needing to be rebuilt. There will be schools needing to be cleaned out and repaired. There will be churches that will need the same. And, as tragic as it is, there will be people needing to  be laid to rest and families will gather to mourn.

In the divisiveness of this past year, in the chaos of the world, Houston Texas and it’s outlying areas came together to show people in this country who we really are. We are America. We will survive. We will not only survive but we will thrive. And we will thrive because American’s of all walks of life, all religious backgrounds, all faith backgrounds, all cultural, ethnic, and orientations – have a promise woven into their hearts. A promise hard fought and although sometimes having lost it’s way, the ties that bind are as strong now as they ever were.

That promise is:

We hold these truths to be self evident. That all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights and that among those rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

And an even older promise than that,

For God so loved the World that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever beleiveth in him shall not perish but have ever lasting life. John 3:16

For God so loved the World, SBC

Not some of it. Not some of them. Not just white ones. Not just republican ones. Not just Straight ones. Not just Male and Female ones. Not Southern Baptists, alone. All of it.

You were wrong then, you’re wrong, now.  The statement made by S.B.C and it’s signatories ought to be seen for what it was, shameful, a low blow, and a sin.

She deserved better than that. We deserve better than that. God deserves better than that.

I hope Houston, once she get’s her cowboy hat on again,  responds accordingly.

Sources:

http://www.baptisthistory.org/baptistorigins/southernbaptistbeginnings.html

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/05/religious-right-real-origins-107133

Violence and Scars ( a call for passive resistance)

 

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Photo by Gerrie van der Walt on Unsplash

I remember the day 9/11 happened. It’s something that is seared into my memory.
The whole day I was in shock.
I fell asleep to CNN and woke up to it still playing on the television with picture after picture, replay after replay of the hijacked airliners and the damage they’d done.
The body count.
People standing outside of The World Trade Center weeping, begging God and passerby’s to deliver them their loved ones.
The next the numbness of it all wore off and there I was, nineteen years old, weeping into the arms of my sister.
I was scared.
Knowing all those people died, it broke my heart.
I remember asking my mom if she thought there were ‘saved’ people in those buildings.
The other day, with Charlottesville I sat down and cried again. I’m thirty six years old and later on as I prayed the ‘Our Father’ with my husband – clinging for some kind of comfort – when I got to ‘Thy Will Be Done’ I choked it out.
I’ve lived a long life.
Not in years but in experiences.
I am a survivor of fundamentalism.
I was raised in the belief that I had no inherent ‘good.’
That the world had no inherent good.
I was beaten. Often. The religion was rigorous and I often rebelled against it.
I knew as a kid there was something inherently wrong with them.
I couldn’t put my finger on it – I mean, the people we talked to were polite, they dressed nice, the churches were nice, they drove nice cars….and in a lot of ways, it wasn’t the worst of circumstances.
Until it was.
And when it was, baby, it was a honey.
I’ve seen and been through things too bizarre to put in 9 books let alone one.
My sisters, can even top my experiences.
Those experiences have put a scar in me, on my heart, so deep it cuts into my very being into the foundation of who I am as a person.
And if I am not careful, those scars, get infected.
I have to be vigilant.
There is an old Sunday School song that goes, “Oh be careful little ears what you hear. Oh be careful little ears what you hear. For the Lord above is looking down – in love – oh be careful little ears what you hear.
It’s in what I hear – that requires the most vigilance.
Like someone who’s had a weather related injury, such as heatstroke, or frostbite or someone who’s come in contact with poison ivy – I’ll always be susceptible to the tone of a message than the actual message itself.
Passion, rhetorical flourish, and charisma are the cornerstone of any good speaker. It’s not really in what they say, that makes us listen, it’s all in the delivery.
Think of your favorite speaker, preacher, politician, or public persona.
Don’t listen to what they say, give that a rest, listen to how they say it.
There’s a lot of umph to their message, a schtick they use, they’re just like you….but they’re not. If they are public speaking, have their starched white shirts rolled up, can deliver a speech without any reservation or nervousness, they haven’t been one of you for a very long time. Most people I know HATE public speaking.
Right now, there is a lot of talk about Nazis and their alter ego – Antifa.
There’s a lot of passionate rhetoric being tossed around by both sides. Promises of violence. Actual acts of violence and confrontations.
A whole lot of passion.
We should always stand against fascism. Always. There’s no room in a free society for authoritarianism. Period. White supremacy and it’s ugly older brother antisemitism and ugly older sister bigotry – ruin and destroy – and have never once created a thing.
It’s led nations into ruins and took its people along for the ride.
And while there is something in the idea of standing up to a Nazi and ‘giving them their just desserts’ violence never creates anything. Like racism and bigotry – violence only begets more violence.
I’ve seen so many people on social media talking about ‘getting ready ‘ for some kind of showdown with the evil that is Nazi’s and no doubt – they are evil.
Yet these same people are unaware, or maybe they are aware, that they are slowly becoming being pushed into the very thing they’re trying to fight against. They become the other side to the same coin.
I feel like a fool when I quote this man, because everyone does who try to drive home a point. Bigots have used this guy, which isn’t too far a stretch since a racist will use Jesus and the Bible to justify their deep rooted hate. But Dr. Martin Luther King stood against much worse, so much worse, and was far more effective in his methodology of passive resistance than any armed conflict can ever accomplish.
War is not about success no matter what General stands up and delivers his speech ‘to the boys’.
War is about failure.
It’s about people failing to come together and work out their issues.
It becomes mindless.
To commit an act of violence against another human being, you have to work yourself up into a state of mindless rage and once that line is crossed – there’s no coming back.
Ask the vets who’ve come back from Iraq and Afghanistan how they feel.
I am not telling you to march. I am not telling you not to resist. I am not telling you to just let them hit you or hurt you. No. You have a right to defend yourself from bodily harm.
All I am asking you to do – is listen not to what your side says – listen to how they’re saying it. Listen to the words they use, not in a way that convinces you to join their cause, but what they are calling for.
The French know about this.
While their revolution was probably 100 percent just. It became a mindless stream of violence and death because people couldn’t back out of the frenzy they found themselves in.
There were so many different factions inside of that event that when someone starts to talk about the French Revolution – you are 100 percent justified in asking, “Which one?”
Are we facing some dark times? Yes. No doubt.
‘ The other’ regardless of where they fit, are in dire straights.
But ladies and gentlemen, there is power in numbers.
Passive resistance like Dr. Kings wasn’t very popular in America. He was murdered for it. Like Christ, he used to the parts of the society in which he lived to shame the wise. He held a mirror up to this country and let it get a good look at itself.
Sure you may face violence and worse when you stand up for what you believe in in any capacity.
But there is one sure fire way you’ll be unable to avoid it and that is by being violent yourself.
A man that lives by the sword will die by it each and every time.
Whoever got a hold of those 15 hijackers used passion to convince them 100 percent of their righteousness. The man who plowed into the crowd of protesters was 100 percent convinced of his righteousness.
The man who sucker punched his little boy, and bounced his head off a tile floor in the kitchen because they were angry, was 100 percent sure – in the heat of the moment – he was right.
Curtail your passions. Or they will destroy everything around you and trust me, there are some fates that are worse than death.

Violence is NEVER the answer. All it does is create a whole myriad and painful questions. Questions like, “Why me?”

What’s worse, is some questions then, have no good answer and because of that – there is are scars that never heal right.

Heaven underneath the sound (poem)

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I am jagged fears
and raw emotion
nerve endings exposed to the chilly air
wanting to go back, wanting to go back
to a time when the pain wasn’t as painful

But was it better then?
or has time erased the worst of it?
Perception is never to be trusted
so much lust, turned to rust, the wine has all been poured

What I want?
Do you know? Can you fathom?
I want warmth and the smell of a fire burning
I want arms around me – but not a lover’s touch
that’s not what I’m hungry for at the moment
although I often hunger for that

I want comfort of a family, familiar
those I love surrounding me in gentle moments
where nothing has to be explained
where nothin’ has to be maintained
except only by showing up

With people who don’t see the words I write
with people who don’t see my back bent over as I work
Where I am not the writer, poet,
I’m just me. A little fucked up but worth loving anyway

Is this age that I’m feeling?
Is this the begging of what the aged and sick beg for
when to live is too much?
when they yearn for something higher?

I want your company and I don’t know
how to beg you for it
or make the distance close between us
or make time stop so when we are together we can stay
what do I want?

What do I want?
Heaven?
I think so. I think this is what this is.
I want heaven.
If just for a moment.
I can almost hear it underneath the sound of the world

Old Friend (Poem)

 

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(Photo by: Ben White)

April is National Poetry Month and this one I’d written several months, maybe over a year or so ago. And I wrote it when I got to missing someone in my life who’s – a friend, brother, drinking buddy, just….

I suffer from what Cordelia suffered from in King Lear when she tried to describe her love for her father when she said, “I cannot heave my heart into my mouth.”

I empathize because even though I am a writer – nothing in the English language encompasses that familial blood/not blood connection we find with certain people. But anyway – enough about that. Here’s my poem:

Old Friend 

I miss you
Old friend
Heart of my heart
Fondest memories when
Mornings lasted until sundown
The air a Sweet summertime song
Our wisdom was shared between glasses of Amber coloured discontent
Bitter enough on the tongue
To coax a sweet melody
Well into an evening

I miss the old when
Ghosts sailing on the breeze
Thick with heavy songs and worry and humidity
When the mood struck our fancy
We’d sing down stars from the heavens
Or leaves from the trees
We were brilliant then, not so much now
Now, were grown up

But the faint notes I hear
Tinkling beyond the sunset
The ghost still ramble and the whisky’s still warm
Although time and distance and days and doings rob us
And give us grey in our hair, in our beards, in our eyes
They can’t steal the youthful sound of our voices

Old friend
Closer than my shadow
Thicker blood hasn’t run between two souls
Or maybe that was the liquor, or our Irish dispositions?
Or sappy drunkenness? Ha!
Who cares
We were young,
Old friend
And right there in those moments
We always will be.

 

(Love ya, pal. It’ll be alright, I promise)

The worst kind of bigot

(Photo by Ian Keefe)
The worst kind of bigot is a bigot who hates other bigots.

They’re the sly bigots who won’t talk about the differences in humanity. Why black people are special. Why Hispanic people are unique. Why gay people are such a focus right now in popular media.

They give Sunday school answers to people when these subjects are broached saying, “Love is love. I won’t talk about what makes us different.”

OR there’s another favorite out there among these people, “I don’t see color.”

The hell they dont.

They just refuse to acknowledge the color, the race, or the sexuality so they don’t have to deal with the weight society places on people in these categories.

Not acknowledging these things, denies people their dignity. Their past. Their present. And robs us all of our future.

That’s bigotry.

A great deal if people are anticipating the live action Disney remake of Beauty and the Beast. Disney has come out and said that there will be a gay character who dances with another man.

And just like clockwork million mom’s and evangelicals everywhere were first in line to protest and say they were boycotting while lecturing Disney about cramming the ‘gay agenda’ down their throats.

Yeah, Disney. Protestant Evangelicals should know! They’ve only been doing  agenda cramming for 500 years!

I digress.

But we were expecting them. They’re bigots. Grade A. And they’re kind of stupid. I mean, really. If we were to describe Christianity using high-school as an analogy, they’re the cheerleaders. The yell, jump around, everyone loves them for their passion but no one talks to them, because they’re dumb as a brick.

But then there are those who are a little more low key.

Who don’t feel comfortable explaining to their kid that sometimes- boys like boys or girls like girls and leave it at that.

You’re not drawing diagrams for goodness sake. Buck up mom and dad, they’re are far more difficult questions coming down the road. 

And the counter argument to that is, “I don’t think I should be told how to raise my child.”

And I agree with you. Personally,  I don’t give a damn how you raise your kid.

But for those of you out there who have gay people in your family, whom you claim to love, your NOT acknowledging your family members life hurts worse than anything some evangelical blowhard can say. 

That movie will come and go.

But those cuts, are permanent.  

Message in a bottle (Part 9)

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Last night I got word that a really cool guy that I knew passed away. His name was David. He was an ex-Marine (take that back, from what I understand once a Marine always a Marine) a father, a husband, and all around really  nice guy.

It really sucked last night to hear he had passed. He reminded me of Santa Clause. He was big with a white beard. Very affable. Very kind. And was interested in what you had to say.

He comes from a family and continued the tradition of – family is whoever you choose it to be. Whether you are blood, or not, whether you are considered good or not. It didn’t matter to him or his wife Debbie that I was gay and married to a man. They saw us as equals.

I, and later on John  through me, was unofficially adopted by this family that’s wider than those two. I was introduced to Carol and Daddy (David’s brother)  by his niece who I’d met first. And this family is all educated. All of them have degrees or an interest in history, literature, politics, and poetry. And their home looks ripped right out of an English countryside. There are books, and cats, and booze, and a fireplace. And my God …there is food! If you’re hungry in this house, something is wrong with you.

And what is amazing about them, is, they look for you to see if you’re coming.

They want to see you. They call and check up on you.

They leave a light on for you.

They want to see you succeed. They are happy when you are.

They ask you to help them hold the ladder or trim the hedge or go get some eggs for them.

They feel a lot like a family should.

When I was still in my tea party angry at the world self-loathing phase. When I was a fundi baptist if not in my personal theology but my outlook on the world. They were patient with me. Even when I didn’t deserve it. Even when I walked away from them in anger because I disagreed with something Daddy said.

They took me back without a word.

When you see love for the first time one of two things happen. First, you’re suspicious of it. You’re suspicious of its intent. It feels uncomfortable. It’s invasive to you and you want to withdraw from it. And second, when it sinks in and you realized what it is you play this compare and contrast game. And this is in regards to love of all sorts. Agape, Eros, Philia, Storge – all of ’em.

When you see real love for the first time you look back on what you thought love was and you’re like ‘What the fuck was that?!”

It’s easy to love someone. The hardest part in keeping a relationship alive is letting them love you. You know you. You’ve lived with you. And when you’ve allowed or been forced to accept someone else’s truth as THE truth about you, you may even turn away from love out of fear. Fear of being stripped of so much that you thought you were. As those things, people put on you are now comfortable even though they’re ugly and serve only to hurt you the longer you hold onto them.

If someone says they love you. Family, Friends, or Faith – if they don’t encompass these truths from 1st Corinthians 13:4 – get away from them. There’s is a false love. Especially if you’re caught up in the Retribution gospel of Fundamentalism. As Dolly Parton said, “You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.”

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now, we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

When you come into the presence of love for the first time,you don’t want to leave it. Whether that’s the love of a lover, love of a friend, or the love of perhaps an adoptive family (official or otherwise). And it’s then you realize blood is NOT in fact, thicker than water.You owe no one loyalty or love unless they’re loyal and love you in return.

I wandered hell’s half acre looking for a family like that. And I found one. When you find one, right away, understand a few things.

Will they be perfect? Nope.

But neither are you. And they love you regardless.

R.I.P Uncle David. You were pretty cool.

I’ll write more when I can.