Tag: Equality

28Apr

Let’s Talk About Baltimore

…only, I won’t be the one talking. Instead, I’d like to invite you to listen to these voices with me instead:

From Ta-Nehisi Coates:

Now, tonight, I turn on the news and I see politicians calling for young people in Baltimore to remain peaceful and “nonviolent.” These well-intended pleas strike me as the right answer to the wrong question. To understand the question, it’s worth remembering what, specifically, happened to Freddie Gray…

When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is “correct” or “wise,” any more than a forest fire can be “correct” or “wise.” Wisdom isn’t the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the rioters themselves.

[Continue reading Nonviolence as Compliance]

From Rev. Dr. Michael Waters:

Multitudes have protested peacefully in Baltimore and around the nation. Yet, a question now arises as to what should be done in response to the violent protests presently unfolding on the streets. Both King and Shakur, themselves young Black men who were victims of horrific acts of violence, would caution America to respond responsibly. For only to address the violence of a minority of protesters and not the systemic violence that has set the stage for their responses would be to reveal historical ineptness…

Baltimore is but a sign of a people who can take no more. While we may not agree with the response, we cannot overlook the cause of the response. Just as Lamar listened to frustrations rendered a generation ago, it is time for us all to listen, anew.

[Continue reading Mortal Men and the City of Baltimore]

From Leah Balter:

I was crushed not because the violence lasted longer than the peace, but because the revolution Baltimore worked hard to create was not televised for what it truly was or is. The revolution was televised as angry citizens burning flags, looting stores and breaking police car windows. This is a skewed portrayal of the protests; it is what the media chose to portray — the media that consumers bewilderingly seem to want.

The real revolution is thousands of people across America standing in solidarity against police brutality. The real revolution is youth activists using their voices and their fearlessness to fight for the future of their generation. The real revolution is people of different races walking through the streets of inner city Baltimore, arms locked, chanting “All night, all day, we will fight for Freddie Gray.”

[Continue reading Baltimore’s real, untelevised revolution ]

From a news interview with members of various gangs who met with clergy on Sunday in Baltimore and signed a peace treaty to help their city:

“I don’t agree with what’s going on, but I understand what’s going on, you know what I’m saying? I understand why people mad. But we gotta handle things another way.”

“Me, I basically think the same thing. I mean, we’ve been out here all trying to stop, prevent people from breaking the stores. They hit us with a bomb, they burnt my shirt, they ripped it, and we were still standing right there as a whole. They heard it, but we came right back there holding hands together, and we still, we marched together. Down here, we’re still holding strong. We just want them to stop hurting us so we can just live our life and keep going.”

“Outta all the thousands of people that were down there, you mean to tell me you guys are pointing the finger at us ‘cause we have colors on? No. We’re not, we can’t have that. That is not what we stand for, and that’s not what we’re standing for today. Justice for Freddie Gray.”

“Justice.”

“Justice.”

“Justice.”

“Justice.”

“Justice.”

[Watch the whole video (it’s worth it).]

And in case you haven’t seen this quote floating around yet, this—from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr:

I would be the first to say that I am still committed to militant, powerful, massive, non­-violence as the most potent weapon in grappling with the problem from a direct action point of view. I’m absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results. But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.

[Continue reading The Other America]

Do you have any links to suggest from other voices who need to be heard right now?

We’re listening.

 

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20Jan

A Sense of Somebodiness

I didn’t move for a long time this morning after listening to the Letter From A Birmingham Jail.

I’d read it before, but this was the first time I’d plugged in my ear buds and let the words roll in one by one, slowly enough to saturate and pool beneath my ribs. This is the first year that Martin Luther King, Jr. Day has felt to me more like a movement than a memorial.

I have struggled with, and ultimately abandoned, many versions of this post over the last six months. The truth is that I’m a white girl from the South, and if I can speak about racial inequality from experience, it’s only because I know what it is to be on the pedestal. I was born onto it, as many were (and many more were not). I grew up so accustomed to its perimeter that I didn’t see it as anything out of the natural order of creation until somewhere much closer to adulthood than not.

After Ferguson, I listened like it was my job. I heard the chorus singing Look! Listen! This is real!, and I felt like I’d suffocate from the enormity of the truth I was hearing if I didn’t push it back out into the world with my own voice. Others were suffocating in real life though, and the last thing I wanted to do was to make #icantbreathe about myself. I couldn’t find a way to advocate that didn’t feel like trying to reclaim my pedestal.

Silence hasn’t sat well with me either though. The Letter From A Birmingham Jail was written to white moderates who were sympathetic to social justice issues but ultimately more concerned with not ruffling feathers. Meanwhile, the group being discriminated against by society were “so drained of self respect and a sense of ‘somebodiness’ that they [had] adjusted to segregation.” How a human soul can disintegrate in the silence of those with good intentions.

I know what it is to grow up on the pedestal, to be told that nothing stands between myself and the stars. Somebodiness is woven into the bedtime stories we tell our children. It’s as much a part of our vernacular as are confidence and constitutional rights. When I hear that kids are growing up absent of it or feeling their sense of personal relevance leeched from their bones by the same society that supported me, I want to push a refresh button until it all starts making sense. How can there still be inequality in 2015? How can “a negative peace which is the absence of tension” still be considered more important than putting wrongs to right?

It all swirled in the air around me after I finished listening to Dr. King’s words this morning, a complicated and deeply sobering nebula of past and present truths. I had no influence over the circumstances of my birth—the DNA braided into the pigment of my skin, the culture poised to catch me. Even now, it’s easy to think that I’m just a product of my environment, just a white girl with white privilege guilt who is no more capable of changing the world than she is of bustin’ a rhyme.

I know what a sense of somebodiness looks like though, and if Buechner is right about God calling us “to the place where [our] deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet,” then maybe this is where I can be the change—noticing where the lie of “nobodiness” has latched on in the environment around me and starting there, staying small, being willing to ruffle feathers at my own expense, giving up the comfort of silence if it means gaining even a millimeter toward a more just world. It’s not much, but it’s a start toward one of the truest portraits of heaven-on-earth I’ve ever heard:

“Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. (from the end of his Letter From a Birmingham Jail)

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8Dec

7 Years a Gentile

Come the first of December each year, our family calendar changes from a responsible and somewhat sickly matron into a party animal. There are get-togethers and game nights and recitals and celebrations, and we love winding down (up?) the year in the company of our friends and neighbors. Plus, holiday food here makes the herald angels sing. 

The holidays can be a mixed bag of emotions though (as everyone everywhere in the world knows from experience), and one particular source of mixed emotion for me is the fact that I’m so far from my own relatives and culture during a season devoted to both. December doesn’t so much pull me out of my element as remind me that I’ve been living out of it the past seven and a half years.

And I’m glad it does. The experience I have had and continue to have as a foreigner has changed me for the better, shifting my field of vision and even teaching me to read the Bible like a proper Gentile (that basically means Muggle in ancient Jewish context). More about this, including a vocabulary tip you can use to scandalize your Italian friends, over at A Deeper Story today:

[Ed: Now that Deeper Story has closed its doors, the post is here in its entirety:] 

~~~

I suspect that the only difference between an expat and an immigrant is the amount of money a person brings with her into her adopted country… and I’m not entirely sure which one this makes me.

In 2007, my husband and I moved to Italy for work, but not for lack of opportunities back in the US. Admittedly, my English degree is in far greater demand overseas, but Dan turned down several good engineering jobs so that we could follow the invisible strings tugging our hearts across the Atlantic. This is where folks tend to look at us with envy (if they’re American) or with incredulity (if they’re Italian). Everyone, regardless of nationality, thinks we’re at least 65% nuts. Invisible strings? Riiiiight…

The truth is that Dan and I are weird hybrids of travel enthusiast and missionary, and if you’ll pardon a quick detour into Christianese, we feel called to this life. We find ourselves rooted to Italian soil by something so strong and so inclusive of who we are that it covers a multitude of bureaucratic headaches. Daily life is daily life pretty much anywhere on the planet, but when we stop to absorb what we’re doing on a deeper level, we’re overcome by gratitude that we get to raise our girls in the culture that brought us both the Sistine Chapel and the double espresso. We love this place we’ve chosen to call home.

Italian soccer game 2

That said, these last seven years here have stretched us. (That’s missionary code for “This shizzle is HARD.”) The fascist dictator Mussolini is quoted as having said, “Governing Italians is not impossible, merely useless,” and I’m convinced that he must have said that after going to his local DMV and seeing what passed for a line. Those bureaucratic headaches I mentioned earlier are no joke, not only because the odds of receiving the correct documents in a timely fashion are slightly worse than those of winning the Powerball but because “standing” in “line” is a contact sport here. My Type A soul needs a solid week to recover from each institutional errand.

And then there’s the language. Dan grew up in Italy, but my foreign language skills before moving here were pretty much limited to ordering from a Mexican restaurant. I learned Italian the sink-or-swim way, by diving into the deep end of dinner parties and doctor’s appointments and trying to keep my splutters on the dignified side. For an introverted perfectionist whose childhood dream was to blend in, immersion-style language learning was like running an emotional triathlon every time I stepped out of the house. It can still feel like that if I’m tired or in a new environment or if I’ve recently slipped and said “ano” (anus) instead of “anno” (year) to a new acquaintance. Why yes, my child does have seven anuses! How many does yours have? Goes over great in the pediatrician’s waiting room.

One of the hardest aspects of living here, however, has been adjusting to the idea of being a foreigner. We generally refer to ourselves as expats on social media, but it’s not the Expat Office we go to when we need to renew our sojourner’s permits; it’s Immigration. We shuffle along in a crowd of elbows and body odor, men in turbans and women in headscarves vying with us for the chance to hand paperwork over to the dispassionate officials on the other side of a Plexiglas window. We are the “stranieri”—the strangers. The strange.

And we are strange, no doubt about it. Dan and I share a sarcastic sense of humor that is zero percent funny to most Italians. We observe weird customs like fist bumping and putting ice in our water. He and I have the same last name, which confuses everyone and prompts fun getting-to-know-you questions like, “So you’re also brother and sister?” We have been known to wear flip-flops outside the home, and once I went out with wet hair to the enduring horror of every single person I encountered. Sometimes I even put butter on my pasta (shhhhhh). We’re odd and American, and that’s okay.

Foreigner has been a hard label for me to get used to though. It’s not that it doesn’t fit; it’s just that I’ve always thought of it as belonging to a whole category of “other.” Much like when I tried on my wedding dress for the first time, I’ve had to stare long at my foreigner status to absorb the fact that I am the one draped in it now. I’m the “other” now, the stranger, the splutterer, the one being stretched to fit a new context. If my life these last seven years were a game of Which One Doesn’t Belong?, the answer would be me.

Whether I count as an expat or an immigrant, the disconnect can hit close to home sometimes. Italian culture rests on a foundation of family, with people’s grandparents and uncles and fifth cousins twice removed usually living in close proximity and woven throughout each other’s lives like interlacing doilies. Someone’s always around to babysit or cook dinner or help fix what needs fixing. Granted, families themselves are sometimes what need fixing, but in a society built on interconnectedness, our stand-alone status is an additional spotlight on our other-ness.

This sense of cultural loneliness hasn’t been easy to bear. I’m grateful for it though because it’s shifted my field of view. I have at least a small idea now of what the immigrants I once regarded with indifference must go through in acclimating to a new home—every aspect of life suddenly different and they themselves considered the most different of all.

I’ve also started reading the New Testament like a proper Gentile. It’s not that I’d thought of myself as a Jew before, but I did grow up Southern Baptist, so I found myself identifying with God’s Chosen People more often than not. It was easy to imagine that the Bible was written for me, directly to my culture and worldview. Before becoming an outsider myself, I’d never considered what it would be to look in on this big happy religious family with VIP access to God and a stockpile of “Visa Denied” stamps for anyone else trying to get in. I’d never given the Gentile experience a second thought (or a first, for that matter).

I have a slim idea of it now though, which is why I can only read about Jesus’s inclusion policy from precarious footing on the brink of tears. When Jesus offers living water to a foreign woman whose culture and lifestyle put her lower than low on the Jewish totem pole, when Peter announces that God’s door is open to crowds of outsiders longing to be included, and when Paul writes to a primarily non-Jewish church in Ephesus, “You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household,” God meets me smack-dab in the center of my insecurity and isolation. He reminds me of the very real family that we have here in our church. He exchanges our displacement on the map with a borderless home base. He steps right over definitions like expat and immigrant and alien and poor and stranger and disconnected and “other”… and turns the whole system outside-in.

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5Dec

Chains Shall He Break

No hymn has ever gotten to me the way O Holy Night does. In fact, I tend to get itchy around hymns in general, but something about this one strums a resonant chord straight into my solar plexus and out the other side. If I were a good evangelical, I’d call it powerful. (And if I were a sufficiently ironic hipster, I’d call it trippy.) Admittedly, gaping-chest-wound is not the feel one usually looks for in Christmas songs, but there are some years when it’s a deep comfort, when getting busted open by lyrics about social justice and hope helps to make sense of all the other things busting our world apart.

This is one of those years.

You know what I’m talking about, I expect. Michael Brown’s and Tamir Rice’s and Eric Garner’s faces have been on the news here in Italy too, and I glance at the TV over my treadmill and feel another crack splintering across the surface of my heart. This ache has no borders.

I’ve been reading some of the stories and avoiding some, and each has its price. When I wade into the details of tragedy, I feel as though they’ll suffocate me. When I choose not to read though, to give myself a break from all the heartache, I’m distancing myself from a reality that dear friends of mine don’t have the option of escaping. My inability to breathe is only figurative. Not a real possibility. Not the script of realest loss.

I’m doing my best to listen to those who have the most to teach me right now, and what they’re saying is that racism and systematic oppression are not confined to the past. That Christianity is still very much a platform for prejudice. That people whose skin color makes them look threatening actually have far more reason to feel threatened by mine. That whatever pain I might feel over the injustice I see in the world, it can’t compare with the pain of those actually experiencing it. That my voice right now matters more than I realized.

O Holy Night is cycling through my headphones again, and the words press up against the raw of this week:

“Truly he taught us to love one another
His law is love and his gospel is peace
Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother
And in his name all oppression shall cease”

My mind can’t fathom what it would be like for all oppression to cease, but my soul has an inkling, and it feels like no coincidence that the first candle of Advent stands for hope—that “thing with feathers” which fills the dark with music and helps us believe against all reason and experience that one day we will recognize each other as kin.

None of us, I imagine, was hoping to spend these holiday weeks busted open and aching. This is about as far from tinsel as a soul can get. That doesn’t mean we’ve derailed from the season though. I especially appreciate Christena Cleveland’s recent thoughts on Advent:

“It was into this ‘worst world’ that the Light-in-which-We-See-Light was born, liberating the people from the terror of darkness. So it is in the midst of our worst world that we, too, can most clearly see the Light, for light shines more brightly against a backdrop of true darkness.”

Or, as Sarah Bessey puts it, “Advent is for the ones who know longing.”

This December, the weariness of our world is real to me as it never has been before. Not to say that violence or oppression are new arrivals, but I’m listening more closely this year. I’m willing my eyes to follow the threads of inequality woven deep, deep into the fabric of society and throughout my own thinking as well. I’m absorbing the stories of people (including friends) who have been harassed for being #alivewhileblack. I’m doing my best to engage with the discomfort instead of ignoring or rationalizing it away. I’m grieving, not with the same weight of experience but nonetheless with those who are grieving right now.

And it’s this year more than any other that Emmanuel, God-with-us, feels like a lifeline to this whole spinning, busted-open planet. Peace on earth, goodwill toward men. Good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. A thrill of hope that one day, the first light of morning will spill over a humanity-sized heap of broken chains.

The weary world rejoices.


(If you can get past the organ music and the videography, this performance might just punch a hole through your solar plexus too.)

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22Aug

Book Stories: The Escape Artist

If you’ve been following my blog for any time, then you know 1) that I identify as Christian, and 2) that “Christian” means something very different to me today than it did when I was growing up fundamentalist. The Christianity I experienced as a kid was a members-only club with lifestyle requirements and political loyalties, whereas the kind that I’m discovering and embracing in adulthood is more of an open-air party in which the only common denominator is Jesus. I am more grateful than I can say for the freedom to see God differently. Disengaging myself from the mindsets that formed me, though, has been about as easy as performing a total skeletal transplant on myself.

Take gender roles. The Christian subculture in which I grew up basically assigned one of two identities to everyone at birth. The first identity was “Leader” and came with secondary characteristics such as strength, outspokenness, superior reasoning skills, and money-making prowess. The second identity was “Follower” and brought with it expectations of docility, fertility, weakmindedness, and a knack for the domestic arts. The one and only basis for choosing which identity to bestow on a baby was which set of body parts he or she had.

I can’t speak much to the experience of growing up male in that system, but I do know what it was like to grow up under the “Follower” heading. Because I had been born female, my calling in life was to act as support staff to the males put in authority over me. Our family wasn’t nearly as rigid in this as many other patriarchal families; I was encouraged to get summer jobs and to go to university, experiences that many girls, seen only as homemakers-in-training, are denied. (In fact, one of my favorite posts to write this year was What Our Parents Did Right.)

Still though, I grew up under a list of gender-specific shoulds, some of them directly taught and some of them just implied:

A woman should defer to her father’s or husband’s judgment in all things as her own way of thinking is flawed.

A woman should always seek to diminish herself; her body, her voice, and her actions should never draw attention.

A woman should work tirelessly and selflessly in her home sphere, managing household tasks and child-raising so expertly that her husband never needs to be burdened with them.

A woman should understand that her purpose in life is to help her man fulfill his.

…for the Bible tells me so.

Actually, the Bible’s part in these gender prescriptions was always a little confusing to me. We didn’t follow Bible verses saying women needed to avoid jewelry or wear head coverings to pray, but we agreed most adamantly with verses saying women shouldn’t teach men (at least not from a pulpit), that they should obey their husbands, and that they should busy themselves at home. Despite the pick-and-choose nature of our theology, the message was the same: Men were God’s white-collar workers, and women were his field hands. And this message stuck with me, deeply.

Even after I had moved halfway across the world with a husband who considers me equal and the beginnings of a fulfilling profession, I felt my fundamentalist identity like a choke chain. In my mind, being a woman was so linked to inadequacy that I couldn’t look at a single aspect of my life without guilt. I wasn’t organized enough, diligent enough, submissive enough, successful enough, conventional enough, reproductive enough, energetic enough, religious enough. Plus, I could only manage something like .003% of what that damn Proverbs 31 woman did on any given day.

And then I read this:

Book Stories - A Year of Biblical Womanhood

“As I saw how powerful and affirming this ancient blessing could be, I decided it was time for Christian women to take back Proverbs 31. Somewhere along the way… we abandoned the meaning of the poem by focusing on the specifics, and it became just another impossible standard by which to measure our failures. We turned an anthem into an assignment, a poem into a job description.” – Rachel Held Evans

I had at least one friend (hi, A!) think that A Year of Biblical Womanhood was about how to be more fundamentalist based on its title and, you know, the whole woman-in-a-head-covering-banished-to-her-roof thing. What isn’t quite so obvious from the cover is the author’s tongue firmly in cheek and heart firmly for women like me caught in the chokehold of “Biblical Womanhood.” Really, those two words should always be in ironic quotes because, as Rachel shows in alternately hilarious and touching experiments, there is no such thing.

I read the book about a year and a half ago, and it was like an escape artist had personally come to spring me from the cramped confines of “Follower.” I do still struggle with feelings of guilt and not-enoughness; if Dan and I are in such a busy work period that we’re having trouble keeping up with household tasks, my first instinct is to berate myself for neglecting my responsibilities, for prioritizing my work over righteously clean floors. Or if I say something at a dinner party and everyone turns to listen, my inclination is to shrink back and turn the conversation over to someone with more a more valid viewpoint. The difference is that I can now recognize these wilting instincts as byproducts of an identity that was never meant to be mine. I can see cultural preference where once I only saw divine prejudice, and I can choose not to be ruled by it.

Rachel even got me to like Proverbs 31, which I consider a feat of staggering proportions. Or should I say… biblical?

“Could an ancient collection of sacred texts, spanning multiple genres and assembled over thousands of years in cultures very different from our own, really offer a single cohesive formula for how to be a woman?” she asks in her introduction. “Do all the women of Scripture fit into this same mold? Must I?” And in her answer, I found a way to keep both the Bible and myself. Pure gift.

In this series, I’m foregoing traditional book reviews and instead sharing Book Stories—why certain books have impacted me, how they’ve entwined themselves through my life, and what the long-term effects are. After all, what better way to talk about stories than through the medium of story?

(If you have your own close encounter of the literary kind you’d like to share here, just send it on over to hello{at}bethanybassett{dot}com.) 

8Apr

Upside-Down Art: Jaw Harp Jam

From the time I stumbled across D.L. Mayfield’s writing a couple of years ago, her perspective has intrigued and challenged me. Her blog was the first place I came across the term “downward mobility,” and her conviction that Jesus’s teachings and the American dream might be at odds has set off powerful ripples within my own thinking. Through her writing, she draws those on the margins of society into the middle of the picture, over and over until readers can’t help but start to see the world differently. In short, she’s a game-changer. I’m honored to be sharing her space today with a cross-cultural redemption story that has become my favorite earworm; join me there for the rest, would you?

~~~

When Marcus Mumford and his band of indie folk-farmers hit the scene back in 2010, I had never heard the term hipster. I didn’t know suspenders were the new rubric of cool; I just knew that their music spoke to me, that Mumford’s “newly impassioned soul” plucked the strings of my own longing for a full-volume life. I queued up Sigh No More and played it on repeat for the next six months. Chances are, you did too. The album peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200 and was the third most downloaded album of 2011. Everyone, it seemed, was getting his or her British bluegrass on.

But this story isn’t about Mumford & Sons. It’s about an almost impossibly obscure group of musicians from rural India who recorded an untitled EP with them.


Dharohar ProjectImage from last.fm user rahsa

They went by Dharohar Project (pronounced “Dah-RHO-har”), and the only thing I knew about them was my own disappointment. I’d been hoping for a fresh dose of the barn-dance rock I’d been cycling through my stereo—not the wailing and twanging I associated with traditional Indian music. I gave the MP3 samples a once-over, but they only confirmed what I already knew: Jaw harp just wasn’t my jam.

{Continue reading over at D.L. Mayfield’s place}

27Mar

I Am Not an Abomination, and Neither Are You

When I was a girl, I believed I was fundamentally wrong. The exact term that rings in my memory is “an abomination to God.” An abomination. I didn’t have any context for that word outside of the Bible—in fact, I’m not sure I do even now—but I understood that its five syllables shook with the intensity of God’s disgust.

I gave proud looks.
I was deceitful.
I pushed back against rules.

I’d memorized verses declaring each of those things an abomination, a detestable affront to God, and over time, the word worked its way past my actions and straight into my identity. I didn’t try to be proud, see. I couldn’t help it; my entire theology was based on micromanaging myself toward perfection, and any time that I succeeded, my natural reaction was pride. I didn’t have many grounds to feel good about myself, but if I was managing more holiness than someone else in a certain area, my mind latched onto smugness like a drowning cat to a piece of driftwood. Pride wasn’t my choice; it just was. And that made me an abomination.

The same went for my deceitful and rebellious streaks. Lying and hiding were coping mechanisms for me, my body’s only strategy for self-defense. Rebellion was likewise instinctual; I never flouted rules, but I endlessly wrestled with the ones that suffocated me, trying to find loopholes through which to breathe. I was born with a question mark tattooed on my soul, and I believed the only reason God didn’t smite me for it was because Jesus had him on a choke chain.

There is a fiercely painful dissonance in believing that the one who made you is repulsed by who you are. I don’t think this is a sensation unique to my experience either. Mainstream Christianity teaches that we are born with a “sin nature” that God cannot abide, even though God is the maker and creator of all, and that we must perform series of steps to effectively hide our depravity from him before it is used as grounds to condemn us. I have heard thousands of sermons over the years to that effect.

Believing this way, that God considered who-I-was an abomination, stamped the dark impression of guilt onto my every waking moment. Not even those times of smugness when I was particularly rocking at righteousness could blunt my impression that God was gagging in my direction. I ricocheted endlessly between self-loathing and pride, my psyche working overtime to protect me from my theology. I’m sure I don’t need to spell out that this was a nightmarish way to live.

All the same, I had it easy in one regard: Nobody ganged up with God against me. If anything, I was praised by other Christians for striving so hard after holiness. Not once in my life has a group of people discriminated against me over those parts of myself that the Bible calls abominations. If I have ever defended my identity, it’s because I’ve wanted to, not because I’ve been under attack. I find instant acceptance in most Christian circles despite the ways in which my habits diverge from accepted biblical standards, and fellow believers’ open arms have strengthened the faith that I might have abandoned long ago without their support.

Not everyone is so privileged.

Among all the “abominations” listed in the Bible, from telling lies to eating shrimp to stirring up conflict to shedding innocent blood, the evangelical Christian community has picked out one on which to concentrate its outrage. You already know which one. You can’t help but know it. It’s on Saturday night’s news and on Sunday morning’s PowerPoint and on legislative drawing tables around the world. It’s the mountain on which we are willing to let others die.

This week, evangelicals became so incensed over World Vision, a humanitarian aid organization, expanding its hiring policy to allow married gay Christians that thousands of children lost their sponsorships. Let me put that in other words: People who claim to follow Jesus stopped providing nutrition, education, and health care to impoverished children in order to make a theological point.

Just before getting into bed last night, I saw that World Vision had reversed its decision, caving after two short days of uproar. The news settled on my heart like a boulder, and I lay awake for a long time exploring the contours of that weight. Being a Christian has never made me so sad.

I know what it’s like to feel that God despises my identity but not what it must feel like to have millions of fellow humans joining in. I can’t imagine having even just one person so repulsed by who-I-am that he or she would withdraw help from a child and call it my fault. I can’t imagine trying to reconcile my faith with my orientation only to have a nation of heterosexuals shouting from every available platform that I was choosing deviance. I can’t imagine having my heart and soul and talents rejected outright by the Christian community due to an inflexible interpretation of a few select Bible verses.

Can you imagine it?

I’m positive that the sorrow I feel today is a pale shadow of the pain my LGBT brothers and sisters are experiencing this week… this month… this lifetime during which they will be dragged again and again into a religious culture war in which everyone loses. Other writers have already made the points that bear repeating this week (see Rachel Held Evans, Jamie Wright, Jen Hatmaker, Erika Morrison, Nish Weiseth, and Kristen Howerton), and I know better than to think I can singlehandedly change popular doctrine. I do think it’s important though that I lend my voice to the discussion—if nothing else, so that my own LGBT friends will know that they’re not the brunt of every Christian’s theology.

I am grateful all the way to my bone marrow that my view of God did not stay rooted in that oppressive past. I still read the Bible but with very different eyes. Jesus is real to me now—unconditional love is real to me now—and through the clarity of that love, everything I once thought about religion is up for grabs. Except the view of a single human soul as an abomination. That’s not up for grabs. That’s just straight-up gone.

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