On Tuesday, June 11, 2002, in St. Louis, the immovable object of ignorance at the Southern Baptist Convention met the irresistible force of truth in Soulforce.
Both Soulforce and Southern Baptists turned a corner in St. Louis. Soulforce moved into a new level of non-violent protest against spiritual violence against God’s GLBT children by infiltrating the convention audience and directly confronting the leadership of Southern Baptists. The President of the SBC responded by voicing extreme statements of misinformation and biblical ignorance that were as self-defeating as they were shocking.
HOW JESUS GIVES US TRUTH
Jesus in the Gospels clearly challenged everything about his contemporary religious scene. We are called to follow Jesus and do the same. The more I contemplate the Jesus of the Gospels, the more I am convinced that Jesus did not intend that his sayings and teachings should become etched in stone or frozen in a “holy book” to be made into doctrines and official pronouncements of an absolute “new law” to be forced on people whether they understood it or not!
Jesus confronted hypocrisy and spiritual violence at every turn. We are called to do the same. Jesus moved about and identified with the religious outcasts and the spiritually “unclean” of his world. We are to do likewise. Jesus questioned absolutely everything that his contemporary religion did and taught. We are to do the same. If we follow Jesus, we never remain satisfied with partial success. If we follow Jesus, we do whatever it takes to change everything. Even die.
Jesus was the ultimate revolutionary. He put his life on the line. He violated all traditional taboos against touching and loving the wrong people. He cleansed the Temple. He stood his ground. He confronted and challenged the principalities and powers of his world. He died because of who he was and what he did. Jesus won.
THANK YOU SOULFORCE!
My only regret was that I was able to stay with Soulforce in St. Louis for such a short time because of previous commitments. I was present for training and for sharing with my friends there, but I had to miss the Soulforce actions on Monday and Tuesday. In St. Louis, I spent some time visiting with Jeaneane Hill and her husband Bob. I had met and enjoyed the exuberant spirit of Jeaneane in New Orleans Soulforce events last summer. She sent me a wonderful letter about her experience of confronting the SBC and spending time in jail. Her letter is included below and has been added to my web site.
Mahan Siler also was at the Soulforce training and preparation events. This was my first visit with Mahan since I was pastor of MCC Nashville in 1994. Mahan gave me a preview copy of his new book about his long arduous journey as pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, N. C., where he led his church to accept and affirm GLBT people and finally to celebrate the holy union of two gay men in the church in 1992. The Southern Baptist Convention reacted by launching a prolonged war of spiritual violence against homosexuals and against any non-gay people who supported homosexuals.
In his book, Mahan tells the personal stories of many gay and non-gay people who were part of the great movement into truth, love and acceptance of God’s GLBT children. I was deeply moved emotionally as I read the details of the struggle that Mahan and his wife Janice shared with their friends and the congregation of their church in the years leading up to 1992.
Visiting with many Soulforce friends like Mel White, Gary Nixon, Doug Donley, Jimmy Creech and many others lifted my heart, encouraged me and taught me many new things. All of the people on the Soulforce staff are incredibly capable and well prepared. I learned from every conversation and every presentation.
When I spoke briefly at the end of the Saturday afternoon session of preparation, the one emphasis that I tried to make is that: “You cannot protest genocide too much!” Southern Baptist teachings are destructive and demeaning to all LGBT people and have a powerful impact in convincing gay youth that they are unworthy and evil and deserve to die. You don’t have to exterminate the homosexual vermin in your world if you can get them to destroy themselves by your teachings, doctrines and demands!
All around the walls of the great Methodist church where the training sessions were held were large photos of GLBT people who had committed suicide or who had been killed in violent homophobic attacks. This setting was sobering and instructive. Religious teachings of spiritual violence that lead young people to hate themselves and reject themselves because of who they are and to become self-destructive and suicidal are a thinly veiled form of genocide. And you cannot protest genocide too much!
SOUTHERN BAPTIST DILEMMA
Southern Baptists have backed themselves into a terrible spiritual trap by their misinformed and unrealistic rhetoric against God’s GLBT children and against women in church leadership. The reaction of Southern Baptists leaders so far to efforts by Soulforce and others to bring objective, logical, reasonable practical thinking and information into issues related to gender orientation has been increasingly hostile, ignorant and unrelenting.
The parents and friends of Southern Baptist GLBT people along with their gay loved ones wait in vain for honesty and real love to be shown by the SBC. A growing number of GLBT supporters among Baptists is developing and will increase in influence and will help to make some changes. The headlong plunge into spiritual oblivion by Southern Baptists as a group, however, is tumbling over the precipice in a ragged retreat from the great traditions of freedom and integrity of the founders of Baptist life in America.
BIBLE ABUSE RAGES ON
The twisting and distorting of biblical literalism is rampant in the Southern Baptist Convention. The Bible has been elevated to the status of an idolatrous image that demands above all else the human sacrifice of children to the prevailing spiritual ignorance and violence that masquerade as the gospel of Jesus Christ. Young minds are being deprived of the truth and fed on the rotten religious garbage of lies and deceit that are laying the foundation for a total rejection and abandonment of all religion in the not too distant future.
What will replace the discredited Bible of contemporary religious persecution of God’s children? I hope that it is the Spirit of Jesus, who challenged the conventional wisdom of his day and set into motion the spiritual process by which we can do the same thing ourselves today.
All is not lost. God is not on vacation. The Spirit of God is at work in all things and in all of us. God is with you and surrounds you at every moment of your life. Let God show you your mission and your role in the spiritual journey all of us share. You are needed. You are necessary. God has work for you to do that fits you exactly, though it probably would not fit anybody else.
The author of Invitation To Freedom and Steps to Recovery from Bible Abuse, Rev. Rembert S. Truluck served in Metropolitan Community Churches in Atlanta, San Francisco and Nashville from 1988 to 1996. He earned a doctorate in sacred theology from Furman University, serving from 1953 to 1973 as a Southern Baptist preacher. He resigned as a professor at Baptist College at Charleston (now Charleston Southern University) and became an MCC pastor after being outed to the college’s board of trustees.