The Struggle for Equality

Warning:this blog talks about both taboo subjects of religion and politics.

Why should anyone have to fight for the right to be true to who they are?   As we face a big election that includes alienating people for being who they are, LGBTQI, women, people of color, immigrants or the poor are all being discriminated against openly.  The argument that I hear the most, from those who want to take our rights away, is religious based.  This floors me.   I have a degree in theology and have studied the Bible and Jesus’s life in great depth.   Making people feel “less than” is not what Jesus was about, not what his teachings are about and not what most forms of theology are about.   Anyone who twists the Bible or other religious texts to discriminate against people and alienate people is totally missing the point.  Jesus was the guy for the other guy.  The guy who stopped people from stoning the prostitute to death.  The guy who would rather hang out with the kind of people most churches discriminate against today then the religious leaders of his day.   To quote one of my favorite religious authors Dr Peter J. Gomes from “The Good Book”, “In reading and interpreting the Bible, the great temptation is to use it as the moral sanction for our own culture.”  The Bible has been used to discriminate against groups of people since its inception.  People used the Bible to justify slavery as what God intended.  Many believed slavery and segregation were supported by scripture.  “When the missionaries came, they had the Bible and we had the land, now we have the Bible and they have the land.” An early twentieth-century African proverb says.   I have always found it interesting that a theology that teaches that our body is just a shell that houses our spirit that will live on makes so many judgments about people according to our shell.   Does one’s spirit have a vagina or penis?  Does one’s spirit have skin color?  The hypocrisy to say that God created us all in his image and then out of the other side of their  mouth say, but if your skin is dark, if you have a vagina, or if you love someone I don’t approve of then you don’t have the right to serve that same God as I, is appalling.

Folks, the summary of Jesus’s message are LOVE, ACCEPTANCE, GRACE, KINDNESS and I don’t see how discrimination fits into any of that.  I went to a Southern Baptist high school and college and then worked in the ministry for a while as a youth and children’s pastor.  I was raised in Christianity of the south.  I have a heart to help people and where I grew up was the avenue most available to do the kind of work I wanted to do.  I knew there was a strong calling on my life to help others.  When I was a youth pastor at a large church in Florida our church had a food bank where I volunteered.   One day two men came in who had lost their jobs and were living in their car.  These men politely asked for food.   The head pastor thought they were gay and informed them they could not have food unless they agreed to change their lifestyle.  This was a huge turning point for me with organized religion.  I struggled with this and still do. Even if a person says they believe the Bible literally, Jesus said “Feed my sheep.”  He did not say feed them if you like them, or if they do everything right, or if they live according to the way you interpret the Bible, he simply FEED THEM.   What still to this day boggles my mind is that the pastor thought he had every right, according to God’s word, to say what he said to those hungry men.  I walked out and never went back to that church. 

No one should have to fight to be who they are, not because of the color of their skin, their gender, their sexuality or sexual orientation.   All people deserve the freedom to be who they are and NOT be ashamed of it or feel like they have to hide it to be safe or to be able to live a productive life.   We are far more alike than different and science has now proven this.  Our DNA and genetics are so similar that the differences between a white person, a person of color and Asian person, a gay, a straight and so are so minuet that it is only 1 out of every 1,000 in our nuclear DNA sequence that are slightly varied.  

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

This means for ALL.  But it has not always meant for all, and it still does not today because all humans do not have the same rights and opportunities.  How long can we stand for this?   Yes, we have come a long way from slavery, segregation, women having access to more opportunities, gays in the military; we have a great deal to celebrate.  We are also not there.   Women still do not make the same for doing the same job as a man on average.  People of color still do not make the same as a white person on average. Immigrants are constantly told they don’t belong and yet we are all immigrants.  Native Americans are still fighting for their land and respect.   Transgender unemployment is at 39% due to gender variant discrimination.  Same sex couples still do not have the same rights as heterosexual couples to protect their families. We cannot be complacent in our quest for EQUALITY for ALL. 

Things we can all do to make a help make positive change toward equality:

·       Vote for candidates that believe in equality

·       Help campaign for those candidates

·       Talk to those in your life about the importance of Equality for ALL

·       Speak up when someone says something discriminatory

·       Support organizations that are doing work for Equal Rights

·       Be kind to ALL

Finally, what can you do today? We are standing at the edge of making history for marriage equality another big step toward equality. If you live in one of the four states (Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and Washington) that are voting this month for marriage equality, then please vote for marriage equality. If you have friends and loved ones in those states, encourage them to vote for marriage equality. Taking this step, will make it easier for us, as a country to take the next steps.