It seems as if we mostly only hear gloom and doom in our daily life. The cable news networks seem to enjoy breaking our hearts with daily stories of rapes, murders and worse. I'm not sure why bad news is such a draw over happier, uplifting stories. Could it be that we are that jaded? Or is our daily life so devoid of joy, that we really can only bear to see people worse off than us?
Hmmm…….what I think is really going on, is that big horrid occurrences DO draw in the viewers, but the day to day updates on a missing person or murder trials seems more like a reality show. We turn in to see what's up with the hunt for the missing human, or to see how the prosecution is doing against the lawyers for the defense, and somehow thru the medium of the tv, it looses its 'realness' and becomes little different than "Big Brother" or "Survivor". Both are similar really, they both have their 'villains' their 'heroes' and of course a winner that we hash over days after that current cycle of the show ends. But, today I'm doing a happy story, a true story, a story that needs a wider audience, because this man is a shining star indeed.
Jimmy Creech was a United Methodist minister, yes past tense, he is an unsung hero of the trenches of fighting hand to hand for marriage rights for all Americans, and for his unrepentant fight he was defrocked. Jimmy felt the pull to be a pastor, he loved nothing more than holding his parishioners hands and hearts in their time of need, spreading the God he knew, which was a God of love and of peace. This is a man who lives the word of God, no shilly shalling about, he believes what he preaches.
Like most people who don't realize they know LGBTQ humans, Jimmy was typical in his blindness to their daily struggles to live a 'normal' life. While in his office one fine morning one of his flock came into his office saying how he was finished with the Methodist church. How Adam refused to support or attend a church that hated him. Jimmy calmed him down and pulled the reason out of him. This is what drove 'Adam' from his church of birth;
"The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons." (1)
Adam's grief and anger ripped the blinders from Jimmy's eyes, and he began a spiritual quest to seek the answers. This is a quest that began in 1984 and still continues to this day. At one of his church trials, this is what Jimmy had to say about how he felt that God, the bible and his faith intersect;
"It is my belief that the position taken by The United Methodist Church regarding same-gender unions, as well as that regarding "the practice" of homosexuality, is wrong, unjust, discriminatory and inconsistent with the spirit of Christ and our Wesleyan and Methodist traditions…"
"Sexual orientation is not a moral issue; it is morally neutral. Sexual ethics are simple: sexual relationships should be mutual, non-exploitative, nurturing and loving. What is immoral are unequal, exploitative, abusive and unloving sexual acts toward another person. This is true regardless of the orientation of the persons involved. I believe that sexual activity which is considered moral when practiced by two people of different genders, is no less moral when practiced by two people of the same gender. The crucial test is whether the activity is mutual, non exploitative, nurturing and loving.
I believe that the sin of heterosexism is no less a sin than that of racism. While some of the dynamics may be different, they are fundamentally identical in nature as an expression of a dominate culture over another.
Just as it was the church in the South that perpetuated racism so that slavery and white supremacy could have legitimacy, the Christian church has been responsible, more than any other institution, for perpetuating the sin of heterosexism as a form of control over what is feared within all of us: the mystery of human sexuality and intimacy (sexual or non-sexual) with persons of the same gender.
Because of the heterosexism taught and practiced by the institution of the Christian church, countless young people have committed suicide, adults have lived lifetimes of lies, families have been destroyed, gay men and lesbians have been cruelly treated and murdered, the spirit and lives of millions of gay people have been crippled, and they have been told that the love of God is denied to them because of who they are, and will continue to be unless they become other than who they are.."(2)
This is a man who loved being a pastor, who loved ministering to his flock, and worked hard at his job, who took a pay decrease when times were tough at his church. Even though he lost one church due to his stance on believing, no strike that, he knew that God and Jesus loved all of his children, gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, that Jesus would have welcomed all into his church, and allowing all to marry. After getting a chance at a new church, Jimmy didn't blanch or hedge his bets, he carried on, trying to make the new church more inclusive, more open to lgbt humans, causing the church to split in two factions, the group that grew to understanding that God loved all humans no matter of their sexuality, and the group that lives in the past with hate and bigotry.
Jimmy's work caused him to lose this new church, and later be defrocked, which for a man who believes in God and his church was wrenching, but once he stepped off the curb and marched in his first gay pride parade, carrying a banner saying that God loved all his children, he never looked back, never wavered, never changed his stance, his tone, his belief.
If you 'know' me, you'll pick up quite quickly that I'm not a religious person. I was raised going to church on Sundays, summer bible school and the whole 9 yards. Even as a small person however, I saw the hypocrisy in singing, "Jesus loves me this I know, for the bible tells me so" and then listening to the 'pastor's' hate filled preaching, at that point in time, the hate was spewed towards the blacks. This was the time period of the race riots, freedom marches and the beginning of desegregation of schools.
I lived in an apartment complex that primarily served military families, I was the only kid in our square whose daddy wasn't in the military. I had friends who were black, who were half asian, latino, heck it didnt matter to me what color they were, still doesn't. We were a rainbow, and got along great with each other. From making mud pies, to playing pick up games of football, racing around on our bikes, and sharing lunches, and following the mail man every single day all of us talking to him at once, I knew these kids were no different from me. The flyleaf of my children's bible was Jesus surrounded by children, and they were from all over the world. I remember laying on the floor one sweltering hot summer day, (this is when only the rich had air conditioning!) and looking at my bible, and remembering the 'message' from the previous Sunday, and I couldn't get what I knew to be true, and what a man of "God" said about blacks.
So began my quest for answers. No one was safe from my questioning, and I never did receive an answer that satisfied me. And as the young and innocent will often do, I came to my own conclusions, I was right, the adults were wrong, God did love us all, even the stupid.
Give Jimmy's book a try, and see if he doesn't make you feel just a wee bit better that not every christian in the whole world hates the lgbt humans, and gives you hope that times are a changing.
"Adam's Gift: A Memoir of a Pastor's Calling to Defy the Church's Persecution of Lesbians and Gays"
Publisher: Duke University Press books (March 14, 2011)
Hardcover from Amazon.com is 19.77
Kindle version from Amazon is 16.47
(1) United Methodist Church doctrine
(2) Adam's Gift by Jimmy Creech (i'm sorry i cant give you the page number, my copy is a kindle book)
It's all about love, yeah?
Hope your thanksgiving was a happy day filled with laughter and hugs.