Shuck and Jive

Friday, February 20, 2009

Let's Give 'Em Hope

A group of us PFLAGers watched Milk Friday night at the Real to Reel in Johnson City. We went to the Acoustic Coffeehouse after the show. I am really proud of this group and I am honored with their friendship.

Milk tells the story of Harvey Milk, an activist, the first openly gay person to be elected to major office in America. He was elected supervisor in San Francisco in the mid 70s. He was assassinated at the age of 48. What a powerful show. Sean Penn and the other cast members were awesome.

As I watched, I realized that this is why I do this.

Harvey Milk inspired people across the country that there is hope. "You gotta give 'em hope," he said.

Kids growing up in places like Elizabethton, Tennessee hear from the pulpit, Sunday after Sunday, that they are sick or sinners or other horrible things. No preacher thinks he is preaching to them. He doesn't even know who is in his congregation. These kids will never reveal their secret and certainly not to the preacher.

But they watch. They see loud, red-faced angry men pounding Bibles. They see laws being passed designed to keep them forever in the closet with their secrets, because as they are, they are not fit for society.

They hear their ministers, their teachers, their parents, their elected officials, the neighbor down the street, the other kids in school. They hear the constant put downs. They know what those words mean. "Queer, fag--you're so gay." It means they know they can never be who they are, express love as their supposedly "normal" heterosexual classmates can and do. No big wedding days in their future. It is a life of fear and self-hatred and 'God why did you make me this way.'

But Harvey Milk and others like him who were willing to come out and to be alive, fully alive, gave them hope. Allies who came out as allies gave them hope.

Harvey told the truth. You are not sick. You are not a sinner or a pervert. You are a valuable wonderful human being just as you are. Your preacher is wrong. Your family members are wrong. They will get it or they won't. If they don't, it is their loss because it is your life. You have power. Together we will make this world a better place. There will be a wedding day in your future, if you want it, to the person you love. There will be respect and dignity. That is the kind of hope he gave. He gave it by word and example.

Harvey Milk died 30 years ago. Much has changed since then. Much has not. But the change is happening now.

It is happening even in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) It was in 1978 that the PC(U.S.A.) passed its statement that said "homosexuality is not God's wish for humanity." Milk was in office the summer that it was passed.

It took 30 years. Last summer the General Assembly said that hateful, misguided, and harmful statement has "no further force or effect." The General Assembly also sent to the presbyteries an amendment to our constitution to remove the last piece of discriminatory legislation. Many presbyteries will be voting Saturday and throughout the week.

Finally, it is possible that openly, out and shout, gay and lesbian people with partners if they have them will be ministers in the church. These are some pretty strong people who have heard that same crap, had those same doubts, held those same secrets. But they have hope.

They will be good ministers. Like Heather over at Holy Vignettes:

So, I felt when we began this thing that it was winnable, but only if everyone put in a lot of work and so on.

Here are some of the YES votes from the past few days:
Scioto Valley (Columbus and southern Ohio)
Great Rivers (Peoria, Illinois, and environs)
Tres Rios (west Texas?!)
Sheppards and Lapsley (central Alabama, includes Birmingham)

Needless to say, these are not all places infested with activists.

Let me tell you a little story about Sheppards and Lapsley. In 2006, General Assembly was in Birmingham. Usually More Light Presbyterians and That All May Freely Serve host a worship service on the Sunday of GA. Usually a local church is more than happy to have us. In Birmingham, there was not a single Presbyterian church that would have us in the door. We held the service at Pilgrim UCC on the outskirts of Birmingham. (They were great.) And now the presbytery votes YES on this measure.

I haven't really been willing to say I might be ordained before the next GA. I haven't been willing to hope for it. But now, maybe I am.
Yes, it is just a church vote. But when the square Presbyterian Church starts getting it, it is a sign that change is happening.

Let's do this for Harvey and for Heather and for the millions of gay and lesbian kids all over this country.

Let's give 'em hope.


  1. OMG! Tres Rios? I can't believe that. They've come a long way since I left in 1991. Santa Fe votes today. I'm not too concerned, there is some opposition, but I think the vocal majority will be for. I haven't heard about New Covenant (Houston), my other Presbytery. I think they could be split.

    Thank you for your support of the LGBT community. My daughter still wants nothing to do with church thanks to a youth director at our first church in Albuquerque. It wasn't Presbyterian. The pastor at my home church in Albuquerque now, is inclusive and supportive but it was too late, the damage was done. What she was told at 14 will stay with her the rest of her life, I'm afraid.

  2. It was a powerful and uplifting movie - I'm glad we went. And I'm glad that we little PFLAGgers of NE TN can be a part of that hope.

  3. Thank you. Thank you for all the work you are doing in a place where it must be difficult to do it.

    Thank you. There is hope.

    Pax, C.

  4. Thanks Sara,

    I am sorry for your daughter. Her story is all to common I am afraid. Thanks for the comment.

    Snad--And I am glad you insist on making us celebrate! : )

    Celia, pax back at ya!

  5. I'm sitting in Druid Hills Presbyterian in Atlanta at the meeting of the Greater Atlanta Presbytery.

    GREATER ATLANTA JUST VOTED 243 IN FAVOR, 233 AGAINST ON 08-B!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Woo hoo! Glad you made it to the meeting FC! Great news from Greater Atlanta.

  7. Thank you for your efforts on behalf of LGBT youth. It's true-they do need hope, or all is lost.

    We're fighting hard for a day when they can look forward to marriage and family just like their straight peers. I don't imagine that will happen in my lifetime, but any progress that can be made toward that goal is precious.

  8. I don't know how old you are, Buffy, but I'm pushing 50, and I expect it to happen in MY lifetime. Maybe late in my lifetime, but I'm certainly willing to hang around as long as I need to ;-).

    As I look at the updates from the various presbyteries that are going "blue", I am more and more hopeful that all people will eventually be able to look past who others "love" in order to see that love. It doesn't matter if that love is expressed through same-sex marriage, gay adoption or the ministration of gay church leaders.

    I am hopeful!

  9. I'm 40 and I only wish I were as optimistic as you. I look back at the political and cultural environment while Harvey Milk was fighting and it was so eerily similar to today's. The lies they spread are nearly identical though thirty years have passed. We make one tiny step forward and the RRRW pushes us back two, three or more. For every law we get to protect our rights five states pass laws banning marriage, adoption and the like. It's just so daunting.

    It doesn't mean I'm giving up--I'll never give up. But I'm definitely frustrated.

  10. Buffy, I understand, and I am glad you aren't giving up. I was thinking the same thing the other night after watching MILK - the same tired arguments are being brought out. But, it feels more like they are coming from a defensive posture, as opposed to the "that's just the way it is" position.

    Progress is being made. Stay with the fight!

  11. My parents will die believing I'm an abomination and their ultimate embarrassment, and I find that incredibly hurtful and sad.

    Because of their prejudice, their unwillingness to see any other viewpoint but their narrow biblical one, and the shame they endure from having a son who's a fruitcake, they'll never change.

    Meanwhile, I have no family. So you folks are my adopted family. You've got me whether you want me or not. ;-)