Monday, January 19, 2009

How "We" Shall Overcome

As we honored the memory of Dr. King today I have reflected on its relevance and impact on my life. The most direct impact is that the movement he started helped shape our country into a place where all people, regardless of race, have equal opportunity. President-elect Obama is the personification of that opportunity as he has ascended to our highest office in less than a generation after Dr. King’s efforts began. I am so proud that our country has moved so far away from its bigotry and hatred that we can respect the contributions of every citizen regardless of race or color. I also believe that the peaceful resistance that Dr. King preached can also teach us how gay people can overcome the prejudice and discrimination that we face.

Racial discrimination has been fought for years by religious people beginning with northern Abolitionists fighting slavery. Later, Dr. King mobilized religious people and intellectuals to support the cause of African-Americans in their pursuit of civil rights. His most touching words expounded that we not judge a man by the color of his skin but by the content of his character. That was a message that religious people could easily get behind. But now, I find it interesting that the very religious institutions that helped Dr. King fight prejudice and discrimination for racial injustice are the very institutions that promote it against homosexual people.

The one hopeful idea that has reached us is Dr. King’s teaching on non-violent protest. I believe that this message is the only way to persuade the homophobic evangelicals that hate us so bitterly to treat us with compassion. Of course, the Christian right-wing are not going to react toward us with physical violence. Instead, they mount campaigns of fear and misinformation. They spread hatred and untruths such as, “they are pedophiles,” or, “they recruit heterosexuals.” Nothing could be further from the truth. What they are saying is a “spiritual violence,” as Tracey Zoeller has said.

I was so touched by this brave young woman’s response to Pastor Rick Warren. She shows that we gay people are being injured, hurt, victimized by the hateful speech of heterosexual evangelicals that have no idea what they are talking about. I don’t think the activists fighting for equal gay-marriage rights are going to help us. I don’t think the banner-wielding protestors will help us by shouting, “I’m here, I’m queer, get over it.” I don’t think the “Gay Pride” parades will amount to anything but a paltry amusement for most straight people. I do believe the most effective method of persuasion will be from the heart felt expression of sorrow from young people like Tracey Zoeller that show how we have been hurt. We have been hurt, brutalized and victimized not with fists but with words. We have been ostracized from our families and communities. We have been pushed to the fringe of society when we want to be embraced at it’s heart. This peaceful protest against spiritual injustice is the only way we will overcome.

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