The Courage to Be a Whosoever

“Thank you for your magazine. You’re so courageous to do it.”

Those words were spoken to me by a young man who emerged from a crowd of people at the first gay and lesbian Christian conference I ever attended — the Witness Our Welcome conference in 1998 in Dekalb, Illinois.

He took my hand and shook it as he said those words, and he melted back into the crowd as quickly as he had emerged, but his words have stuck with me all these years.

“Courageous” was the word that rattled around in my head, and still echoes from all those years ago. Whosoever had been born just a scant two years earlier and was, for many years afterward, the only online magazine available for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians. The magazine was, indeed, pioneering and groundbreaking, but courageous? It didn’t feel that way to me. For me, Whosoever was an outlet for my own burgeoning journey toward reconciling my spirituality and sexuality, which made it empowering and joyful for me

Perhaps in a world where just about every Christian denomination still forbade “practicing” LGBT people from serving in pulpits and other leadership positions and marriage equality was a laughable, if not impossible notion, Whosoever was an audacious act of courage on my part. Honestly, it just felt like a ministry, a calling, something I couldn’t NOT do.

Over the years, Whosoever has given me the courage to do a lot of things I didn’t think I could do. I became a spokesperson, both locally and nationally, for the LGBT Christian movement, traveling the country to deliver workshops and lectures. In 2008, I published a book, Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for LGBT Christians, that served as the culmination of my thoughts and writings over the course of the life of Whosoever.

Along the way, I have gotten to know many people who both support, and oppose, the movement for complete acceptance of LGBT people in both the church and society at large. Most rewarding, however, have been the many letters I have received over the years from people who found hope, love and reconciliation within the pages of this magazine. I know that Whosoever has literally saved the lives of people who believed the lie that God hated them and would send them to hell if they lived into their authentic identity as a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person.

That, frankly, has been reward enough for doing this magazine over the years.

A New Kind of Courage

Now, the time has come for me to again act with courage as I shut down Whosoever. I do this with great sadness and trepidation. I do not wish to abandon those who have come to rely on Whosoever for support, but I find that my personal theology has shifted so drastically over the years that I no longer can proclaim to be a Christian in any orthodox, or traditional, sense of the word.

I have always been a member of the more progressive spectrum of the faith, this is true, but over the past year, especially, I have discovered another line of theological thinking that has so completely captured my heart and transformed my life in a way that even progressive Christianity had not been able to do. Through the spiritual thinking of scholars such as Bishop John Shelby Spong, Course in Miracles teacher Marianne Williams, Catholic writer and theologian Richard Rohr, Unity Church leaders Charles Fillmore and Eric Butterworth, Bishop Carlton Pierson and others, my beliefs have been turned on their head.

While I can no longer claim to be a Christian in the traditional sense, I am still an ardent follower of Jesus. I believe Jesus’ true message to us — a message of transformation not just for ourselves but for this world — has been covered over by millennia of useless theology and dogma.

I recall having this kind of uneasy feeling even back in seminary when professors would talk about grand councils of rich, white men convening around Europe to argue the great theological points of the day, which usually had something to do with whether or not each other’s Christology was high enough or not. While they argued whether Jesus was the same substance of the Father or not, I thought to myself, people were starving. People are still starving today while we argue the finer points over whether or not God loves LGBT people.

I can’t live with that kind of religion anymore. I need a faith that puts practical action out into the world, a faith that feeds not only me, but prompts me to get out in the world and feed others as well.

In short, I still need the courage to be a “whosoever” in this world — someone who still believes that Jesus came to show us the only way to save ourselves and everyone else, by cultivating our own Christ consciousness so that it leads us to a place of selfless love and service to ourselves and others.

That seminal quote from John 3:16, which once meant to me — even as a more progressive Christian — that Jesus was the only way to get to God, has new meaning to me now as I read it through this new more metaphysical lens.

This passage meant a lot to me in the beginning of Whosoever, because to me it was a signal of Jesus’ unconditional welcome to anyone who “believed” in him. That, I figured, meant the LGBT believer. We, too, are “whosoever.” While that still remains very good news to LGBT people who continue their journey in orthodox Christianity, those words hold even more hope for me now as I continue a journey of courage to truly become a new kind of “whosoever” — a person who recognizes their own inner divinity and seeks to cultivate that Christ consciousness within myself and encourage others to do the same.

Charles Fillmore writes this about John 3:16 in his book Mysteries of John: “In love God gave His only-begotten Son, the fullness of the perfect-man idea in Divine Mind, the Christ, to be the true, spiritual self of every individual. By following Jesus’ example of recognizing and acknowledging the Christ in our every thought, word, and deed, thus unifying ourselves with His completeness, the outer will become as the inner; we shall be like Christ; we shall know Him as He is. He who truly believes ‘cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life.'”

When we understand that Jesus came to call us into our own higher Christ consciousness, we do not “perish,” which in Greek means we are not lost, destroyed or made useless. Instead, we become alive with the abundant form of life that Jesus promises we all can find in our lives.

This abundant life is the one I have found as I have put on this new way of thinking and believing about Jesus. It is congruent with my True Self and, just like Whosoever, it feels like a calling — a ministry — that I now must pursue with the same vigor and excitement that propelled this magazine.

Passing the Torch

Since Whosoever began in 1996, more and more ministries aimed at LGBT people have sprung up, led by young, charismatic leaders who have pushed the envelope and have advanced our progress as a faith community much further than I had ever dreamed. The Evangelical Network, the Gay Christian Network led by Justin Lee as well as newcomers such as Matthew Vines and his Reformation Project and Brandon Robertson at Evangelicals for Marriage, are continuing to do amazing work and serve as models for those still struggling to reconcile their sexuality and spirituality.

By stepping away from Whosoever, I am, by no means, turning my back on the LGBT Christian community, but it is time for me to pass the torch to a new, dynamic generation of leaders in our movement. As an elder in this movement, however, I still intend to serve as a resource and as a source of support for anyone who struggles to live authentically into their sexuality or gender identity. This will always be a core piece of my ministry and I hope people will continue to reach out to me when they need that kind of support. I will always be here.

I extend my thanks and gratitude to everyone who has supported Whosoever over these many years, including the writers who gave their work freely to be published, to donors who helped us pay the bills to keep us online and for every reader who stopped by, whether they agreed with what they read or not.

I am grateful for even those who wrote hate mail to me over the years, because those are the people who challenged me the most to continue to grow my faith and continue to act with courage in the face of their hatred. In the end, they are the ones who made me a more gentle, loving and generous person because they pointed out the places where I was still being violent, hateful and selfish.

For now, access to the archives of Whosoever will remain available, but I plan to take the site down completely this summer, so if there are articles or resources you need, please download and save them now.

Again, thank you all for your love and support over the years. I begin my new journey with a new Web site called “Spiritual Apocalypse.” Come on over and join the party there.

Blessings, Love and Namaste,

Candace Chellew-Hodge
Founder and Editor of Whosoever Magazine

Room at the Table – A Thanksgiving Reflection

As a child, I remember Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners in our home were always a big production. This was the time of year when mom and dad would pull the extra table leaves out of storage and magically make the dining room table two-sizes bigger to accommodate all the family and other guests who would gather at the table.

The table itself was then impeccably decorated with the finest China we owned, appointed with freshly polished, real silverware and glimmering gravy boats and bowls taken out only for these special occasions. In the end, the turkey, ham, stuffing, gravies, potatoes, yams and vegetables made the already beautiful table smell so good. You couldn’t wait to sit down at that table and take part in the family fellowship.

However, as a child, that beautiful and bountiful table was not set for you. Instead, there was a bare, rickety card table, holding the barest essentials of salt, pepper, and the everyday plates, cups and bent and marred tableware. This was called, “The Children’s Table,” and it was far less inviting and appetizing than “The Adult Table.”

You knew, though, that you had graduated in both age and respect within the family when one day, as you headed over the adult table to fix your plate and take your usual place at the lowly children’s table, one of your parents stopped you and pointed out that you now had a place set at the adult table.

What a glorious day that is … to graduate from the children’s table, where your cousins and siblings had begun to make the meal unbearable with their childish talk and antics … up to the deeper, more engaging conversations at the adult table.

As we consider the state of the world today, however, we can see that many segments of our own society remain at the spiritual children’s table … relegated to the margins, given scraps from the adult table with their real needs largely ignored. Our world has increasingly segregated itself into separate tables where the like-minded, or the ethnically or spiritually similar all gather together, excluding those who don’t think, or look, or worship as they do.

This is not the state of the world that the Holy calls us to tolerate. Instead, the Holy commands us to make room at the table for everyone. There are no children or adult tables, white or black or brown tables, LGBT or straight tables, Republican or Democrat or Libertarian or Tea Party tables. There are no Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or atheist tables.

There is but one table in this world – the table of unity – that the Holy calls us to create, not just in this world, but in our own heart. We cannot relegate anyone to the children’s table of this world, no matter how different or other we may consider their ways and beliefs to be. Instead, the Holy calls us to constantly say, “Yes,” to those who seek to come to our table, to put in a few more leaves and magically expand the feast to fit everyone who seeks room at the table.

Artist and Author David Hayward on Waterfalls, Leaving Religion and the Art of Coming Out

It was a dream about a waterfall that finally gave David Hayward the peace of mind he needed after leaving his career as a pastor in 2010 after almost thirty years of service.

Religion had been Hayward’s life from the beginning. Originally baptized Anglican, he grew up in the Baptist church but turned to Pentecostalism in his teens. He attended seminary and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister and went on to pastor Vineyard and independent churches before his questions about traditional Christianity led him to give up his career and leave the church.

The beginning of the end came in 2005 when he began his Naked Pastor blog. A moniker, Hayward told Whosoever Magazine during a recent interview, that means, “I’m going to bare my soul. I wanted to reveal what pastors really think about what we go through and be honest about it.”

In 2006, he added daily cartoons to his blog, calling himself “A graffiti artist on the walls of religion.”

The topics for the cartoons vary widely, but all tend to deal with current events within the church, religion and politics — skewering everyone from disgraced Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll to prosperity gospel preachers.

“I try to address what’s going on in religion and challenge the abusive, erroneous, silly and toxic aspects of religion,” Hayward said. “I challenge it not because I hate it but because I love it and I think people have the right to be spiritual, religious and to gather together but for God’s sake, let’s do it in healthy ways.”

The members of his congregation had little motivation to keep up with his blog when it began. Then, Hayward’s increasingly unorthodox views on Christianity began to get noticed by outsiders.

“Ever since I can remember I’ve always struggled with the exclusivity of religion,” he said. “Christianity in particular which teaches the only way to God the Father is through Jesus Christ the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. Although it sounds wonderful, it is exclusive. I met nice Jewish people and Buddhist and Roman Catholic people and atheists who are better people than I am and I wondered, ‘How would they deserve eternal punishment and I wouldn’t?’ It was a mental anguish of the kind that was unbearable.”

When word of what Hayward was blogging about — those tough questions he was posing about traditional Christian spiritual beliefs — got back to his congregation and church leadership, they began to question his commitment to the faith.

He and his congregation parted amicably enough, but Hayward found life difficult after the pulpit.

“When your whole life and identity is wrapped up in something like that and you leave it, cold turkey, it’s a tough go,” Hayward remembered. “I nearly self-destructed. I nearly lost my wife, my family and myself. You lose friendships, networks, income, career, religion. We had to file for personal bankruptcy. It was just the perfect storm.”

It was during that perfect storm that he dreamed about a waterfall. In the dream, Hayward is standing at the bottom of the waterfall. He realizes this is a symbol of reality. Looking up, he knows that, above the rim, is God in whatever form — or no form — we may imagine that higher power to be.

The water coming down was the manifestation of that universal source and the water hitting the ground was the Holy Spirit “engulfing and integrating everything,” Hayward said.

“It had a Trinitarian structure to it, but I knew we are all experiencing the same thing but we are all understanding it and articulating it through our own paradigms and language. That’s the only difference,” he said. “I knew this immediately that there is nothing worry about. The atheist, the Buddhist, the Hindu, the Jew, the Muslim were all experiencing the same thing but we have our particular paradigm and language that seems to separate what we’re experiencing into exclusive ideologies or religions, but it’s only an illusion.”

In that moment, he felt what he called “a theological peace,” and then realized that he was probably not the only one who felt this way — trying to come to terms with a spiritual life after leaving organized religion. Many people who choose to leave the church, he said, feel like gypsies or refugees without a safe and supportive place to deconstruct their beliefs and build new ones.

It was that thought, and his own craving for safe community, that led him to found The Lasting Supper, an online community for people who have left religion but still want to retain their spiritual orientation.

“A lot of people who leave religion realize the risks and they quickly jump into something else that provides community such as yoga or other wellness movements. None of that is bad, but sometimes I wonder what would happen if people kept pressing to find their own spiritual identity. I’m trying to provide a safe place for people to process in a healthy way,” Hayward said.

Among those who flocked to his new community were lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who had found themselves on the receiving end of so much abuse at the hands of the church. They have been welcomed into the diverse community which includes people who are married, divorced, atheists, agnostics and people who have left the church and don’t want to return.

Many of the cartoons that Hayward has produced over the years have been aimed at revealing some of that abuse LGBT people have suffered in traditional churches. He’s taken 100 of those cartoons and put them in a new book called The Art of Coming Out: Cartoons for the LGBTQ Community.

The book is divided into three chapters: The Discrimination, The Struggle and The Affirmation that traces both the fear and love that LGBT people have experienced in their spiritual journeys.

Hayward hopes that his images of Jesus fully accepting LGBT people as they were created will help others achieve the same theological peace he found when he dreamed of that image of the waterfall of God’s all-inclusive love spilling over into the world.

“There is something magical about an image,” said Hayward. “You can say to somebody, ‘Jesus loves you as you are.’ But, when you show them a picture of it, people can understand that it’s true! It’s another way of truth telling.”

Use this link to purchase The Art of Coming Out and David’s other books.

To learn more about The Lasting Supper, go here.

Listen to a podcast with David Hayward.

Former Christian Singer Jennifer Knapp Reclaims Her Voice

Jennifer Knapp was fly fishing along the banks of a river somewhere in middle Tennessee when the world learned that she was a lesbian.

Rumors about the sexuality of the contemporary Christian music singer had been swirling around for years, especially facing-the-musicafter she quit her career during the height of her success and retreated into self-imposed obscurity.

Had she quit the business because she was a lesbian? After all, Knapp herself, in her new autobiography Facing the Music: My Story, acknowledged that contemporary Christian music artists are often held to a higher moral standard, seen as role models who represent Jesus.

“[E]very Christian artist’s career rests in the hands of those who measure the integrity of their spiritual journey against their own idea of what a Christian is, or should, be,” she writes in the book. “Fail to represent that standard to the right people and your CD could sit on the shelf collecting dust, career over.”

For Knapp, however, ending her career was a matter of physical survival and not one of concerns over being judged on some moral failure. A grinding schedule of touring and recording had worn down her physical, mental and spiritual health.

It just so happened that Knapp’s need to rest from the relentless demands of stardom coincided with a budding relationship between herself and a woman named Karen, a music show manager Knapp had med through the industry. The two were fast friends and their relationship grew into much more when Karen became Knapp’s manager to take her through her final year in the contemporary Christian music scene.

It was that year, 2010, that her coming out story was orchestrated. Three interviews — one each with The Advocate, Christianity Today and Reuters — would be released on the same day during Knapp’s final tour before leaving the contemporary Christian music scene. Knapp received a text message from her management almost a month after the initial interviews saying simply: “It’s official. You’re out.”

She received the requisite hate mail along with messages of support and admiration, but took them in stride, even handling Southern California Evangelical pastor Bob Botsford with grace and patience during a follow-up interview ten days later on CNN’s Larry King Live.

“Bob, I didn’t lose my faith when I realized I was gay,” Knapp told him live on television that night, “but it took a lot of faith to tell the truth.”

It was that truth-telling that led Knapp to the Christian faith in her college years. The child of divorced parents, she had struggled to win approval and support from her father and step-mother for her budding music career. In high school, Knapp played the trumpet, and played it so well, she was awarded a scholarship to Pittsburg State University in Kansas.

When things finally came to a head with her father, however, she was left without means to pay for housing and other living expenses that went along with that scholarship. With the help of her grandparents, she finally went, but was mentally a mess.

She turned to drinking and promiscuous sex to ease the pain. At her lowest point, it was her Christian roommate Ami who finally turned Knapp on to Jesus and led her in prayer. She felt a sense of euphoria afterward, writing, “All of a sudden, I understood what it must have been like for Paul when the scales fell from his eyes (Acts 9). After that day, in the new language taught to me by my fellow friends of the faith, I was reborn.”

After that, Knapp began to again pursue her love of writing. She learned the guitar and joined a praise band meeting a man named Byron who would lead her through her early career to her first record deal.

Knapp’s story is at once deeply personal and incredibly moving, taking the reader along for the lowest lows and the highest highs in both her personal and professional life. Her sexual orientation plays a role, but is not the lead character in this book. Instead, it is Knapp’s own sense of integrity and faith in her drive to succeed on her own terms — often with the help of friends, mentors, and, yes, even God — that gives this book it’s driving edge.

It’s a reminder that LGBT people are far more than their sexual orientation or gender identity. It would have been easy for Knapp to write a trite, tell-all book recounting just the days she had to deal with the crap-storm that came after her coming out, and perhaps there’s a voyeuristic audience that will be disappointed that this book doesn’t do that.

Instead, what Knapp does is open up her soul to tell a deeper story — that sexual orientation is important — but it is not what defines our lives as LGBT people, despite the best efforts of the church and society to make us sexual caricatures. Knapp, as she has always done throughout her life, refuses to play the game everyone expects her to play, and instead has written a book that shows the depth of a truly human life, full of challenges, disappointments and failures, but in the end, reflects the deep joy of a life lived with integrity and grace.


Listen now to a short podcast preview of Whosoever’s interview with Jennifer Knapp. To hear the exclusive full podcast join us at the Whosoever Community.

Order a copy of Jennifer Knapp’s new book Facing the Music: My Story, and look for her new album, Set Me Free, that hits the stores on Oct. 14.

New Breed of Evangelicals Supports Marriage Equality

[Listen to a podcast with Evangelicals for Marriage Equality spokesman Brandan Robertson.]

Imagine it: The Evangelical Christian church in America is a place of extravagant welcome for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians.

Not the kind of welcome that we have right now. You know, the one where we’re welcome to sit in the pew, sing songs and put our money in the plate as it passes by, but we are not allowed to lead Sunday School, youth groups, or, heaven forbid, be church leaders such as deacons or preachers.

No, really. Take a moment to imagine the Evangelical church welcoming LGBT Christians with no conditions — with the unconditional love of Christ — just as they are. And while you’re lost in that fantastical fantasy, imagine those church leaders embracing you in your same-sex marriage and celebrating your relationship.

This is the vision of a new organization called Evangelicals for Marriage Equality.

Founded about a year ago by Josh Dickson, the former Deputy Director of Faith Outreach for the Democratic National Convention and Michael Saltsman, vice president of a Washington, D.C., research firm, the fledgling organization has big plans for the future of the Evangelical church.

“As Evangelicals for Marriage Equality, we believe you can be a devout, Bible-believing evangelical and support the right of same-sex couples to be recognized by the government as married,” reads the opening line from the statement posted at their Web site. “Our commitment to following Christ leads us to speak out for equal treatment under the law for others — whether or not they share our religious convictions.”

Those are fighting words to leaders of the right-wing evangelical church. The statement was found so revolutionary that three Christian magazines — Christianity Today, Relevant and World Magazine — turned down a full-page advertisement for the launch of the new group in September.

The organization has also been attacked by other evangelical leaders such as Andrew T. Walker, director of policy studies for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, who accused the group of not making its case for marriage equality.

“I saw a lot of emotion. I saw appeals to injustice and craven caricatures of Christianity, but I didn’t see any real arguments,” writes Walker.

Brandan Robertson, the spokesman for EME is not surprised by the backlash.

“We expected that because the sad history of Evangelicalism shows we have become bogged down with a political agenda,” Robertson told Whosoever in a recent interview. “Everyone who has responded to us has missed the point saying things like we’re trying to redefine marriage or water down theology. But, our statement explicitly says we’re not asking anyone to change their theology but rather we are saying, ‘you have a right to hold that theology but are you called by Christ to work to Christianize our government or are we called to love our neighbor?'”

EME has some heavy-hitters among on their advisory board ready to help make that case including well-known author and theologian Brian McLaren and Richard Cizik, the former vice president of government affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals. Cizik resigned that post in 2008 after saying during an interview on NPR that his views on same-sex marriage were “shifting,” and that he believed civil unions should be available for gays and lesbians.

In a post on the EME site he now writes: “While I haven’t come to a conclusion on gay marriage within the Church, believing sincere people will reach different answers on that question, I am convinced that we cannot deny basic societal and constitutional rights — equal protection and due process under the law — to people based on their sexual orientation or practice.”

This is the fine line the organization is walking — urging evangelicals to leave marriage to the political arena and reclaim the gospel of Jesus for the religious arena.

“We hope that as we change the hearts and minds of evangelicals through these conversations that our posture toward the LGBT community will improve because for far too long the church has been on the wrong side of history,” Robertson explained. “Once again, with this issue we have put aside the call of Jesus and picked up political agendas. It’s really harmful and oppressive to the LGBT community and we don’t believe that should continue.”

In October, Robertson and others from the organization will try to begin that heart-changing dialogue with Southern Baptist leaders at Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. Robertson hopes to sit down with some of the leaders speaking at the convention to make his case for evangelical support of marriage equality.

Robertson hopes to make it clear to those leaders that their anti-gay message is not resonating with millennial members of the congregation. A 2014 Gallup poll revealed that 45% of young evangelicals support same-sex marriage, while only 19% of their elders over 50 do.

“We’re trying to show the older evangelicals that this is a generational issue and instead of pushing us out of the church because we support same-sex marriage, we want to show that we are people of integrity with biblical values, but this is where we’ve come to on this issue,” Robertson said.

He is going to Nashville optimistic that he can made a difference.

“If I can, as a millennial, sit in a room with evangelical leaders and have this discussion and show that dialogue is possible, that witness to evangelical millennials will be powerful and will allow them to come out in support of these issues,” he said. “As long as people of power don’t talk with millennials, there will be fear mongering language used and young evangelicals will shy away from speaking out on things they actually believe in and we’ll stay in our theological box. We want to be an example that these conversations can happen and you don’t have to give up your evangelical credentials to do it.”

Robertson does not approach his task with rose-colored glasses, however. He realizes that those evangelicals with political power, especially, will not move easily on a message that has served them well and kept organizational coffers full. In addition, he knows there are fences to mend with the LGBT population hurt by the evangelical crusade against the community.

“If you say the word ‘evangelical’ to the LGBT community, one of the first things that pops into their minds is “anti-gay” or homophobic and we’d like to correct that,” Robertson said.”I’d like them to see that there is a different kind of evangelical that is not working to deny them rights but there are actually people that look like Jesus.”

In the end, Robertson’s vision for the church is one of welcome for LGBT people, without strings or a hidden agenda to change LGBT people or champion legislation against them.

“If we can figure out how we can rediscover the root of the Good News and really center ourselves back around Jesus, the church is going to become a place that has tremendous potential for good,” he said. “It’s going to become a safe haven for LGBT men and women. It will become a place of safety and dialogue as well as a place for doubt. That’s a church I really envision and want to cultivate.”

God and the Gay Christian: A Whosoever Magazine Interview with Matthew Vines

In 2012, Matthew Vines produced a video that went viral, even though it did not feature even one kitten doing something funny or cute. Instead, his video was a speech he gave to his Presbyterian Church USA congregation in Wichita, Kansas, explaining exactly why six pieces of scripture, commonly called the “clobber passages,” do not, in any way, condemn homosexuality as we understand it today. The video has been watched more than half a million times and has been featured in major news outlets such as The New York Times.

“I knew the people at my church cared about me and loved me and I could tell they were pained because they wanted to be able to embrace and support me. I could feel the anguish and internal tension, but many felt they didn’t know how to embrace me without having to significantly revise their understanding of scripture,” Vines said in an exclusive podcast interview with Whosoever Magazine.

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The video has since been expanded into a new book by Vines called God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships, which Vines admits relies on the vast amount of scholarship already laid out on the passages that supposedly condemn homosexuality. What makes his book different is that it is specifically tailored for a more conservative, Evangelical audience, taking a higher view of scripture than many progressive or liberal arguments against the common anti-gay scriptural arguments.

That audience has proved less than receptive so far, with Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, penning an entire booklet designed to refute the book’s arguments before it even hit the shelves.

“I don’t think we can ultimately agree to disagree because this issue, and non-affirming beliefs, are very damaging to the lives of LGBT people,” Vines says about the backlash he’s faced from Evangelicals. “It’s also a double standard, because most people who hold non-affirming beliefs are straight and they don’t have to live with the consequences of their beliefs. They’re asking LGBT people to do something that is vastly harder than they themselves are doing. That separates LGBT people from God and it’s damaging to their dignity and their ability to form relationships.”

Vines remains unfazed by the pushback and is instead using his newfound fame to start a movement called The Reformation Project to change the church from the grassroots up. Vines believes that it’s harder for clergy and other church leaders to put their jobs and reputations on the line to reform the church on this issue. Instead, Vines hopes the arguments in his video and book will be enough to convince that moveable middle in the pews to demand that church hierarchies change on this issue and welcome LGBT people into full membership and full communion.

In this wide-ranging interview, Vines shares his LGBT-affirming interpretations of popular passages used against the LGBT community including Romans 1 and the Genesis story of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the end, he argues that LGBT people are not sinless, of course, but that God intends for LGBT people to be able to come together in intimate, committed sexual relationships.

Below, you can listen to a portion of our podcast interview with Vines. To hear the full interview, join our Whosoever Community. Members of the Whosoever Community get exclusive access to this kind of content every month and so much more including message boards, live group meetings, daily messages of inspiration and a chance to be themselves, be loved and grow their faith deeper within community.

podcast_iconListen Now: Matthew Vines Podcast

Balancing Solitude and Solidarity in the New Whosoever Community

I learned recently that there are a lot of folks who think my wife Wanda and I are weird. We were at dinner recently with a couple of friends who were talking about another couple we know and I looked at Wanda and said jokingly, “Y’know, I wonder what they say about us when we’re not around?”

I didn’t expect an answer, but they were quick to tell us: “Oh, everybody just thinks you two are strange because you don’t do a lot of things together.”

Wanda and I kind of laughed about that, but upon reflection, I suppose we are kind of strange in that way. I don’t like camping, so Wanda goes camping with other people.

Wanda doesn’t care for bookstores, or writing retreats, or music camps, theological events or beer festivals, so I tend to go by myself or with others. One of the features we even liked about the house we own is that it allows me to be in the office doing what I want to do and her being in another part of the house doing what she wants to do.

Which is not to say that we don’t spend time together and enjoy it. We do, but it has been the time apart that has helped us stay together. We’ve encountered other couples who have to do things together all the time, even though one may not like the activity all that much. Or, one person in the couple doesn’t get to do their favorite activity because the other won’t go along or doesn’t want them to do that activity without them or with others.

Wanda and I, however, have a natural rhythm of alone and together time, but sometimes that, too, can get out of whack. There are some times that one is the loneliest number, when we’ve been apart too long and we begin to get lonely, or take the other person for granted or lose our intimate connection. There are also times when we can be together for too long and then two can become as bad as one … when we’re getting on each other’s nerves and snapping at each other.

The key to any relationship, I believe, is striking that balance between being apart and being together, between pursuing individual fulfillment and coming back together to dream common dreams.

Our personal relationships, then, are a microcosm of this larger world we live in. Each of us needs some time for personal retreat, but stay too long and you may become a lonely world-avoiding hermit. Every human being is a social creature who needs to joy and comfort of a community, but if we stay too long, we can find ourselves feeling lonely even in a crowd as we come to expect too much from those around us, asking the community to give us what we can only find in solitude.

Instead, we are called to find a balance between solitude and solidarity.

A Healing Community

Even Jesus knew how important this balance can be. In Luke 5:15-25, the story begins with Jesus retreating to “deserted places” to pray. But, by now, Jesus’ popularity has grown around the area and whenever he shows up, a crowd seems to gather, so he finds he must balance his solitude with his public ministry.

This passage gives us a clue on how to do that. As Jesus was preaching and healing inside of a home, the crowds were so large that some men who were carrying a paralyzed man on a bed could not get him in to see Jesus. So, ingenious fellows that they were, they climbed up to the roof and ripped a hole in it so they could lower the man down to Jesus.

What does this teach us about making room for being alone and together? First, it teaches us the danger of spending too much time alone. I understand this danger, because I tend to be a bit of a hermit. Given the choice of staying home or going out, I’m more apt to stoke the home fires than light up the night on the town.

Those of us who tend to hibernate are like this paralyzed man — we can no longer get out and function in the world. We’re so stuck in our caves that going out into the light of day can be painful, so we stay where we are, paralyzed with fear, or loneliness, or both.

This is where the community becomes important for hermits like me. It took a community to bring this paralytic man outside and get him the healing he desperately needed. This is the role of community — to heal us, to help us become whole, functioning human and divine beings, to hold us accountable and give us a sense of belonging.

Spend too much time alone and you become certain that you don’t belong anywhere. This is one of the major causes of depression in our society. People believe they don’t belong, that no one cares and no one would miss them if they were gone for good.

This is the calling of community, to seek out the paralyzed and get them what they need to be healed, even if we have to tear off the roof to accomplish that. This is the entire purpose of our new Whosoever Community, to seek out those paralyzed by isolation, loneliness or in the grip of the lie that they cannot reconcile their sexuality and spirituality and practice both with integrity and help them heal so they can take up their mats and walk as whole human beings.

In this new community, we come together to support one another, to grow our own faith and provide a safe and sacred place to explore both our sexuality and spirituality without the fear of being condemned for either.

I invite you to visit the Whosoever Community and see what we have to offer. Joining is easy and cheap — just $5 per month, or $50 each year (which includes two free months). Members have access to exclusive content such as podcasts, a chance to connect with LGBT Christians and straight allies in their area, message boards and live events such as book studies and special teaching and question and answer sessions.

As a community we’re called to provide for each other, whether that means giving love, friendship or just holding a space where those around us can be who they really are without fear or judgment. We are called to carry each other, to recognize our solidarity with one another and call each other into the wholeness of community life.

Go here to sign up to become part of the Whosoever Community!

Jesus Christ: Terrorist

A pastor friend of mine recently posted this status on Facebook: “‘Just follow my rules and behave, and nothing bad will happen to you,’ is the exact opposite of the message of Christ.”

It reminded me that the version of the Christian message I was given growing up as a child was even a bit more terrifying than that. I was told the “Good News” of Jesus could be summed up this way: “Do as I say, and nobody gets hurt.”

As a child, I didn’t question the message. I didn’t understand that the message was essentially the same that bank robbers, hostage takers and other terrorists use to keep their victims in line so they can get their way and control others.

As lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of faith, that threat is even more menacing, since we are told from the get-go that if we even think about pursuing our God-given sexual orientation or gender identity, or give in to that “twisted gay theology,” or dare to see our differences as a “blessing,” we will get hurt. Of course, the church makes good on its threat to hurt us when we embrace how God has created us. We get criticized, yelled at, abused and finally kicked out of the church because of our failure to do as they believe God commands.

But, what they ultimately mean by getting “hurt” when we can’t keep the terroristic command to conform to compulsive heterosexuality is that we will go to hell. By daring to live into our sexual orientation or gender identity with honesty and integrity, these terroristic Christians warn us we’ll receive the worst “hurt” of all — eternal damnation in the hottest sections of a fiery and never-ending hell.

Ah, Hell …

Ah, hell … that place we like to send the people we don’t like, or the people we disagree with or those who dare to question our beliefs. We love the idea of hell because it’s a place we can consign those who don’t live up to our idea of morality. It’s a place we can put all those people who leave children or dogs in hot cars on a summer day. It’s the place we can put all those people who behead innocent journalists in the name of their bloodthirsty god, not to mention a place for anyone who professes allegiance to such a god. It’s the place we can send our political and religious foes to and feel superior about our own sense of morality.

But, if we believe in the message that Jesus actually did proclaim during his time on earth — y’know, that message that says, “Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you” — how can we justify sending anyone, even those real terrorists who use the threat of pain, economic destruction and death to get their way, to a place of eternal damnation?

For me, a belief in a literal hell where people burn and are separated from God for all eternity, flies in the face of Jesus’ real message of grace that is freely given to everyone whether they “deserve” it or not.

Recently, a couple of good articles about hell — and how many people are beginning to get the idea that it probably doesn’t really exist — have been posted on Facebook. I highly recommend reading both of them to better understand the concept of hell, how it developed, and why it’s not really found within the teachings of either the Hebrew or Christian scriptures.

In this post, author Ken Dahl, gives us a wide ranging history on hell — how the concept was created and why it’s not a biblical concept at all.

The false concept of hell violates the nature of God, which is unconditional Love. It violates the wisdom of God, the pleasure of God, the promises of God, the oath of God, the power of God. It negates the full power of the cross of Christ. It goes against the testimony of the prophets; it violates the testimony of Jesus Christ and his apostles. It violates the scriptures in their original languages. It violates the writings of the early church leaders who read the scriptures in the original languages. It goes against our conscience, and it goes against our hearts.

In this post, Benjamin Corey runs down the five reasons why the idea of hell is losing its cache with Christians who can’t bring themselves to believe that Jesus is a terrorist.

The Jesus we find in the New Testament is loving and just — but not dementedly cruel. In fact, in the New Testament we see a Jesus who notices suffering all around him and repeatedly states “I have compassion for them.” That compassion consistently moves Jesus to action, often breaking the taboos of his day to alleviate their suffering. The Jesus of scripture is hardly the type of person who’d enjoy torturing people.

What the Hell is the Point, Then?

Someone on Facebook, however, made the point that if everyone is saved, if there is no hell and grace is not a one-time-get-it-now-before-you-die kind of offer and God’s reconciling grace can even extend into eternity to save even someone like, y’know, Hitler, what’s the point of Christianity then? What’s the point of doing good, of being good, or evangelizing other people to accept your religion? Most importantly, if we all “get to heaven” when we die, what’s the entire point of salvation?

James Mulholland and Philip Gulley in the book, If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person, make a compelling argument for ditching the idea that Jesus died for our sins — that we must believe he died so that God would not hold our sins against us. In short, we’ve been taught that Jesus died to “atone” for our sins. That unless God took the life of his son as a “ransom” for our sins, God would have to hold each of us accountable for those sins. If that’s true, then Jesus had to die to protect us from God! What kind of God is that?

Instead, Mulholland and Gulley argue that the “forgiveness of sin didn’t require the death of Jesus. It only required God’s resolve to forgive. Grace isn’t about Jesus paying for our debts. It’s about God’s removing our transgressions, as far as the east is from the west.”

So, what got Jesus killed? Grace, according to these authors.

“The cross is simply one more sign of humanity’s consistent resistance to grace,” they write. “We silence any messenger who challenges our quest for a favored position.”

Moreover, we love to consign those kinds of messengers to hell, as well. But, once we understand the magnificent gift that grace really is, I think we can no longer believe in either a ransom theory of atonement or in a literal hell. This is no easy task, however, because we love to see those we hate burning in hell for all eternity because of how they treated us or those we love. A gift such as grace, that demands no repentance, no adherence to a particular religion’s set of doctrines and dogmas, and requires no confession of faith, seems deeply unfair to us. In our minds, we have to earn salvation. We have to be worthy of God’s grace.

This, Mulholland and Gulley argue, is exactly the sin we need to be saved from: our self-absorption, our belief that the world revolves around our judgments not just of ourselves, but of the world around us.

“Salvation,” Mulholland and Gulley write, “comes with believing God loves you unconditionally. It is abandoning the misconception that you are rejected because of your bad behavior or accepted because of your goodness.”

When Jesus gave us the greatest commandment, telling us to love God with all our soul, strength and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves, he was simply saying: “Don’t be self-absorbed.” Instead, we must step outside of ourselves and learn how to live into that unconditional love that God has for us, then extend it outward to everyone around us, friend and foe alike.

This kind of love is dangerous because it asks us to give up our ideas that our way of life, our way of belief, or our particular religion is the one, true and only way to reach God. Yes, this kind of view does make evangelism worthless if your goal in telling others about the God you serve is to “convert” them to your belief. If, however, your evangelism is about telling people about a God that offers unconditional love and grace, free of charge, abundantly and wastefully to anyone and everyone who will accept it regardless of human designations of race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation or whatever, then your evangelism becomes full of purpose — that ultimate Holy purpose to help others find salvation by repenting of their own self-absorption.

As LGBT people, we have been held hostage to the image of Jesus as a terrorist long enough. We have to stop believing in any God that says, “Do as I say and nobody gets hurt.” Instead, we must turn to the true God that says, “Do as I say — love yourself and everyone around you unconditionally — and everyone will be saved.”

Candace Chellew-Hodge is a recovering Southern Baptist and founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians, and author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians, published by Jossey-Bass. She currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle, a progressive, inclusive community in Columbia, South Carolina. She is also a spiritual director and is currently taking on new directees. She blogs regularly at Religion Dispatches.

Ditch Your Religion, But Keep Your Faith

Despite the massive leaps and bounds the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has made as a whole on the civil rights front — as judges across the country strike down state marriage bans and the marriage equality case makes its steady march to the U.S. Supreme Court and polls show growing support for full acceptance of LGBT people both in society and in the church — the reality is, most people still grapple with deep religious fears when they begin to come out to themselves and others.

Most of the conversations I have with people grappling with reconciling their faith and spirituality centers on their family — how their family will react, whether or not they should come out to their family now or wait, or how to deal with their family when they go off on homophobic rants. I dare say, the hardest group of people to deal with as we embrace our God-given identities as LGBT people are those closest to us – our families who have raised us and loved us, and who we know may reject us or fight against us if they know the truth of our lives.

When I wrote Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians, I focused mainly on how to deal with objections from strangers, friends or other people with whom we are not so emotionally invested as we are with our families. In fact, during workshops or book signing talks, most of the questions from audience members centered on how to respond to family members when coming out.

My own coming out experience with my family, relatively speaking, was easier than most. I was raised in a strict Southern Baptist family where homosexuality was hardly ever discussed, and when it was, it was with the strongest condemnation. I grew up knowing that God condemned homosexuality, but the very idea was a complete mystery to me, even as I became aware of my own strong attractions for other girls and no romantic or sexual feeling for boys.

Back in my day, we didn’t have out and proud celebrities or openly gay and lesbian pop singers. There were no positive portrayals of gay and lesbian people on television or in the movies. Homosexuals were mysterious people who lived in big cities, and even lived in the shadows there! There was no mention, whatsoever, of people who experienced gender identity issues. Transgender people were not even on the radar!

When I came out to my mother I was 16-years-old. I had been wrestling with my sexual orientation for years and finally had found a name for it — from a cover article in Rolling Stone magazine.

“Lesbian,” I said the word out loud for the first time while looking in the mirror.

“Lezzzzzz-beee-yunnn,” I rolled the word around on my tongue for a few minutes. “I am a lezzzzzz-beee-yunnn.”

I immediately hated the word. I still do. I prefer the politically incorrect word, “Dyke,” because it just sounds and feels stronger than “lesbian.”

But, I digress …

If my mother panicked when she heard that word come out of my mouth, she didn’t show it. She simply put her dishtowel down and said, “Well, it could be a phase. Don’t do anything about it right now and see how things go.”

I knew it wasn’t a phase, but let the matter drop.

At 18, I met my first girlfriend and told my mother, “It’s not a phase.”

Her exact words to me were, “I don’t agree with homosexuality. I think it’s wrong. But, you’re my daughter and I love you. You are always welcome in my house.”

My mother and I never had a deep conversation about homosexuality, but she was true to her word. I was always welcomed back home, as were all of my partners who accompanied me for Christmas and other visits.

My siblings, two brothers and two sisters who are all older than me, had their own various reactions, but every single one of them, whether they accepted my lesbianism (dykeism?) or not, have each remained welcoming and loving to me and my partner.

So, I got out easy when it came to coming out to my family. My first girlfriend was not so lucky. Her family disowned her, causing her much emotional pain and turmoil. I am happy to report that she and her family eventually made amends and are all happily co-existing now, but it takes time.

Perhaps it was my own relatively easy coming out that left me so unprepared to respond to those earnest readers who wanted to know how to deal with family members who want to argue the Bible or threaten to remove their love or financial support if they find out the truth. But, I think the true crux of the problem, especially for we LGBT people raised in Christian homes, is that our coming out challenges not only our parents or siblings image of us, but it challenges the religion both we, and our parents and siblings, have been raised to believe and follow.

Our families are often the source of many things for us including love, emotional and financial support and our sense of self and belonging. But, for those of us raised in Christian homes, our families were also the source of our knowledge about God and how God works in our lives and in the world.

From the cradle we are carted off to Sunday school, Sunday morning (and evening!) services, youth activities on Wednesday nights and church all week when the revival minister comes through town. Our lives center around the church – its activities, community and beliefs about God and the world.

What I discovered along my journey, though, is this: While our families may give us a religion, they most often fail to give us what we need the most – faith.

Losing Our Religion

There is a huge difference between religion and faith. I grew up knowing I was a Southern Baptist and was versed on all the beliefs being such a thing entailed. I was baptized when I was 6-years-old after accepting Jesus as my personal savior. I rededicated my life to Christ a million times during Vacation Bible School, Christian summer camps and every single night during revival weeks. I told everyone I knew about Jesus and how much he loved me and how much wanted them to believe in him and accept them as their personal savior and “be saved,” whatever that meant.

Actually, that was the problem. I didn’t know what any of that really meant. I knew all the words. I knew what to say to evangelize someone and how to pray the sinner’s prayer with them. I had a religion, alright, but I didn’t have a faith. Religion is a set of beliefs and principals that we follow … faith is knowing why you believe and follow those beliefs and principals.

It wasn’t until I left church that I discovered that religion and faith are two very different things. It wasn’t until I was forced by my admission as “an abomination before God” that I could even begin to fathom how to rid myself of religion in order to find my faith.

When I told my mom I was going to seminary, she looked up from her tomato plants long enough to say, “You’ll shipwreck your faith.” Because, in my Southern Baptist momma’s mind, asking questions – seeking faith with understanding instead of just assenting to a list of religious beliefs – will bring nothing but trouble.

She was right, sort of. I did shipwreck something in seminary, but it wasn’t my faith. I shipwrecked my religion, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Only when I was freed from the trappings and shackles of my inherited religion was I able to get down to the hard work of building a faith that could see me through all of the trials and troubles that would come in my life.

Along the way, I discovered that my images of God as a Southern Baptist youth — that image of God as the bearded man in the sky who “loves” you but will condemn you to an eternity in hell if you don’t toe the line and believe rightly — was a false god. I have struggled for many years over who God is and how God works in this world and the more questions I ask, the more questions I find.

This, friends, is the bedrock of faith — questions that beget more questions. Questions keep you from settling on one idea of God and concretizing that idea and making an idol out of it. That’s what religion wants us to do — pick and idea of God and stick with it, even if that idea doesn’t work anymore.

Some of the popular ideas of God floating around out there in religion include:

The Vending Machine God: Prayer goes in, stuff comes out. Until that day when it doesn’t and we find ourselves kicking God like that stuck vending machine, angrily demanding that God do what we have asked and being profoundly disappointed when God doesn’t.

The Superhero God: This is the god that swoops in and makes things right. We pray to this god in every situation whether it’s for the healing of a loved one, to find a job, sell a house or get a great parking space at the mall. This god is guaranteed to let us down when the loved one dies, the job falls through, the house never sells and we’re trudging to the store from the far reaches of the parking lot.

The Warrior God: This is the one who hates the same people you do, and from what I can tell, is the most popular form of religion out there right now.

There are many more iterations and images of God that we project onto the Holy in this world, and every single one of them is handed to us by religion – no assembly required. Here’s the truth, though: Every single one of those images of God will break down and disappoint us at some point.

The solution? Ditch religion and keep your faith.

Building a Mystery

God is not a god of religion, but of faith. To try to describe God, to capture an infinite force of love and mercy in mere limited human language, is a fool’s errand. Instead, the best way to talk about God is to simply say, “God is …” and refuse to end the sentence. Because when we end the sentence, even if we say, “God is love,” we set ourselves up for disappointment when we wonder why a loving God allows so much suffering in the world? (I imagine God would ask us the same question, why we allow so much suffering in the world?)

So, how do we get rid of religion and instead begin building a faith? We can start by learning the difference between the two.

  • Religion is concrete. Faith is mystery.
  • Religion is dogmatic. Faith is free to question.
  • Religion is certain. Faith has doubts.
  • Religion sees clearly. Faith sees dimly.
  • Religion has rules. Faith breaks them.
  • Religion is rigid. Faith is able to be awed.
  • Religion is the letter of the law. Faith is the spirit.
  • Religion loves with conditions. Faith loves unconditionally.
  • Religion says, “I know.” Faith is most comfortable when it’s say, “I don’t know.”
  • Religion’s power is in outside authority. Faith relies on our inner experience of God.
  • Religion says, “Be careful.” Faith says, “Step out, even if you can’t see the path.”

If you read over that list carefully with the ministry of Jesus in mind, you can see that what he sought to bring to us was not religion, but faith. Jesus was always pointing us to the mystery and beauty of life, to consider the lilies and the birds of the air. Jesus also spent most of his ministry breaking the rules of his day, talking with women in public, working on the Sabbath and “twisting” the Hebrew scriptures to encourage people to follow the spirit of the law instead of its rigid letter.

Jesus spent his short time on this earth trying to encourage us to stop following religion, represented in his time by the Pharisees, and instead grow our faith by looking within.

“The kingdom of God is within you,” Jesus tells us in Luke 17:21. This is where true faith can be found, not in the certain, rigid and unforgiving confines of religion.

What that means to us as LGBT Christians is this: We do not need to rely on the acceptance of the world, the church or even our families, because God has already fully accepted us as God’s beloved children.

Religion won’t tell you that, but faith will.

Ditching religion may not make it any easier to deal with rejection or arguments with family members, but I promise you, working to deepen your faith in God instead of cleaving to a useless religion, will help you get through the bad times — and teach you to love even those who hate or reject you.

That’s a faith worth building.

Candace Chellew-Hodge is a recovering Southern Baptist and founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians, and author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians, published by Jossey-Bass. She currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle, a progressive, inclusive community in Columbia, South Carolina. She is also a spiritual director and is currently taking on new directees. She blogs regularly at Religion Dispatches.

Gays Force Religious Right to Lose All Sense of Morality

My goodness, how the impending threat of “gay tyranny” in God’s country, the United States of ‘Murica, has gotten Peter LaBarbera hot under the collar.

The founder of the laughably named Americans For Truth About Homosexuality, has penned a screed worthy of the Bigot Hall of Fame, located somewhere in the South, I’m sure (hey, now, I’m a born and bred Southerner, so I can say these things).

The “gay hysteria”-fueled rhetoric begins in the first couple of sentences as LaBarbera bemoans “how decades of court-imposed favored legal status for homosexuality have already stolen away our ‘freedom to be moral.'”

Really, Peter? The fact that gays and lesbians can get married in 17 states and judges are falling over each other to strike down state constitutional bans on gay marriage has left you bereft of a moral compass? So, I expect we can read the news reports of how you’re now knocking off banks, snatching purses and cheating on your spouse? Please, your “freedom to be moral” is a personal choice. Courts, and their decisions, have nothing to do with it.

Ah, but the right-wing blah-blah “criminalization of Christianity” rhetoric train wreck has just begun. He, of course, drags out a couple of tired examples of why gays and lesbians have no right – NO RIGHT, YOU HEAR ME? – to compare their “sin” with the “skin” of black people.

Do the media know or care that Blacks who believe Scripture that homosexuality is wrong repeatedly have been victimized by “gay” activism — which posits that approval of “gayness” and same-sex relationships trumps one’s personal religious and moral beliefs about sexual morality and marriage?

Does Peter care that there are black people who believe Scripture and don’t believe homosexuality is wrong and see, quite clearly, thank you very much, that discrimination against LGBT people, simply because of who they are or who they love is very much akin to the struggle for black civil rights?

Also, does Peter even realize that what LGBT people are fighting for is not the right to have a sexual relationship (Lawrence v. Texas already solved that problem), but to attain the same right to form life-long relationships that are legally recognized by state and federal governments and have nothing to do with “one’s personal religious and moral beliefs about sexual morality and marriage?”

I personally know married heterosexual couples who participate in a “swingers” lifestyle. I personally disapprove on a moral basis, because I believe in monogamy. But, they’re lovely people and their sexual proclivities have nothing to do with me so I live and let live because, hey, my “freedom to be moral” remains intact no matter what they do.

But, he buries the lead deep in his screed. What Peter is really, really afraid of is that if LGBT people are recognized as “normal” and given “special rights” as, y’know, equal, American, tax-paying citizens, then we’ll no longer be one nation “under God,” never mind that many LGBT people are also people of faith, who understand that religion is a personal thing and have no desire to, um, lord it over others, or cry “discrimination” when someone doesn’t believe like they do.

But, anyway, here’s the money shot:

[I]f true liberty is to survive in this Republic that professes to be “under God,” a boldly conservative state like Oklahoma or Texas will need to stand up to the judicial elitists and pronounce that it will not follow tyrannical SCOTUS or federal mandates imposing legal “equality” for manifestly unequal homosexual behaviors. Such a state would assert that our First Amendment freedom as Americans is sacrosanct — and superior to unnatural, man-made “gay rights” — because “inalienable” rights means not having the dictates of one’s faith and conscience squashed by the secular, soulless State.

Which, honestly, when you get right down to it, sounds an awful lot like a man named Theodore Bilbo, a Mississippi segregationist who wrote a book in 1947 called Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization. I invite you to replace words like “racial integrity,” and “race,” and “racial purity,” with phrases like “traditional marriage,” and phrases like “the social equality of the races and to sanction intermarriage,” with “LGBT equality and ‘gay marriage'” (in scare quotes).

Nothing is more sacred than racial integrity. Purity of race is a gift of God, but it is a gift which man can destroy. And God, in his infinite wisdom, has so ordained it that when man destroys his racial purity, it can never be redeemed. This should be sufficient to show that any statement which says our Christian religion forces us to accept the social equality of the races and to sanction intermarriage as the private affair of the two individuals concerned is utterly and absolutely fallacious. If God gave the Negro the inalienable right to social equality and intermarriage with whites, then we must go further and say that He gave to the black man the right to destroy the white race. –Theodore Bilbo in Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization, 1947

Which is to say that right-wing homophobia is simply the red-headed stepchild of right-wing racism. What Peter and his ilk really fear is the end of the divine right of white, straight men to make all the decisions in this country. White men who happen to be gay are seen as the worst traitors to their race, I mean, sexual orientation, which is why the right wing is so obsessed with not just their marginalization, but their utter and ultimate destruction. Do not be fooled, the opposition to LGBT equality is exactly the same as opposition to black civil rights all those years ago, a dying majority’s last ditch effort to retain its power and influence.

But, perhaps Peter is right all along. I fear that the re-emergence of the thoroughly immoral Jim Crow-type laws popping in state legislatures around the country, without any sense by their sponsors of the historic irony or stench of desperation they emit, really does prove that the right-wing has finally succumbed to its own madness and no longer has the freedom to be moral.

Candace Chellew-Hodge is a recovering Southern Baptist and founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians, and author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians, published by Jossey-Bass. She currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle, a progressive, inclusive community in Columbia, South Carolina. She is also a spiritual director and is currently taking on new directees. She blogs regularly at Religion Dispatches.