The Unfolding Dream: MLK Jr, God & Justice

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hihcolorsm.jpgWhen I was a young boy I was afraid of Martin Luther King, Jr. I was 8 years old when I saw him on television, and I remember he always had a group of guys standing behind him who, to me, looked like gangsters with a snarl on their face staring out at the crowd, or at the news camera.

His manner of speech was different, and from my young eyes, he seemed to offer disturbance. It was a time where I saw day in and day out, people screaming and shouting at one another. I saw a President murdered. I ate dinner with my family and during a meal I heard the shots ring out killing an alleged assassin with the announcer yelling “They’ve killed Oswald, they’ve killed Oswald.” It seems everywhere King went tension surrounded his presence. I remember fire hoses turned on people with angry men holding billy clubs; his images always call to mind tension.

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Gay Christian Network: A Safe Place or Safety in Denial? Pt. II

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Gay Christian Network

“the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6)

Part Two

A grand disjunct was recently made known through the good intentions of a person wanting to quote an article surrounding the fight against the “religious right”. In order to post an article a person on GCN decided to check the content with a particular forum moderator asking for permission to share the article saying:

“When I asked the moderator if I could submit the article, it was OK if I took out sections that mentioned politics, which is also cool with me to take that stuff out. I love GCN and I am glad for the moderators so we can keep these forums clean and uplifting. So here is the edited version, but my point should come out the same. This so called “war” should not injure the Body of Christ.”

One of the interesting facts surrounding our current struggles within the context of oppression is the reality that the “religious right” (which is more an ideology than practitioners of Christianity), has used the election booth as a way to enforce their brand of morality on to the general public. As was recently quoted in a commentary from The Advocate:

“Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and their conservative Christian minions blamed us in quick succession for 9/11, the Southeast Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and the U.S. military’s mounting death toll in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

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Gay Christian Network: A Safe Place or Safety in Denial?

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Gay Christian Network

At that moment, I discovered the ministry of irritation” Joan Chittister

Part One

Over two years ago, I came across a website called The Gay Christian Network, which seemed to be a good place to connect with GLBT Christians around the country. I was excited for two reasons: 1) I might find local people who were not aligned with any particular denomination, inviting them to functions I was involved with through the Episcopal Church, and 2) to learn about other things going on nationally as they pertained to our struggle for equality within the broader church.

What I found was not a bad thing, but much different than I had expected. From the start, the place seemed to be a refugee camp for those who have been bludgeoned by mainstream, evangelical communities. I found many for whom coming out as a Christian added to their list of emotional baggage, and in some cases, required more attention than a supportive response to a message board could offer. I also discovered that a majority of the people on the site refused to acknowledge alignment with any denomination. This was not surprising, but it told me that the majority of people using the site are not involved in community. This is very unfortunate as it is in community is where the work of a Christian takes place.

One of the biggest struggles I’ve seen are people who are trapped in a theological conundrum revolving their personal lives, their emotional expression as a GLBT person, and their narrow, evangelical Christian formation, having to lock everything into neat tidy sola scriptura boxes. Anyone who was raised with this theological formula who wishes to think outside the box would cause a problematic situation. Add to this mix human sexuality, and the scenario becomes something of an emotional roller coaster.

As the year 2007 came to a close, in which I celebrated my 30th anniversary of coming out of the closet, it has become clear that as well intentioned as GCN is, helping to provide a safe place for evangelical refugees, it contains a disjunct when its mission touches social justice for those it wishes to help.

It is clear the powers involved in this social networking group hope to maintain some sort of order, but as they attempt to bring together GLBT people, with a huge variance contained within our diversity, it seems for the sake of “getting along”, the ones who run the site seem afraid to confront the issues which are keeping GLBT people oppressed. By keeping a clamp on subject and content, might they have become the unknowing oppressors of the oppressed?

Most would agree, from the historical Jesus, we see a person who spent much of his ministry involved with the powers which oppressed the people around him. He argued against insane purity laws, and put in their places others of the ruling class who sympathized with Roman Rule. According to the prevailing religious thought of his day, Jesus spent much of his ministry in an unclean ritual state, allowing leapers to touch him, eating with prostitutes, and associating with tax collectors, healing on the sabbath, and breaking most of the common purity laws. He preached a Kingdom of God. This statement, among others, was why Rome had no choice but to put him to death. Jesus, aside from the theological perspective, was killed because he was a political troublemaker.

GCN, out of fear, and a lack of understanding of the body politic (which means “the work of the people), refuses to allow any form of political connection between Jesus’, and those who follow his teaching, as seen within the body political discourse. Rather than focus on the message of the prophets in terms of the justice God calls for all people, most seem content to focus on prophets only if they result in the prediction of Jesus’ birth, refusing to see this in terms of a political statement (if it was not political, one would wonder why Herod would wish to have all the babies killed so that a new King would not be born). Their confusion could be that they combine partisan with politics.

Social Justice, though connected to both politics, and partisan connections, is not entirely political. Scripturally, Jesus demonstrated this when he used the Roman coin as a metaphor saying “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God that things that are God’s.” (NSRV Matt 22:22). Social Justice is God’s work, and we, as people who follow Jesus and “the way” are bound, by our Baptism, to do this work for the betterment of all people.

In part two of this critical essay, I shall add more specifics with regard to what I see as their fundamental disjunct with respect to what a Christian message can be and what happens on GCN when its focus becomes more of a social network, refusing to accept the responsibility enabling transformation within the context of authenticity, leading to a liberating experience.

 

 


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