This article first appeared in The Good Men Project March 8, 2015
From Staunch Conservative Evangelical Minister to LGBT Supporter and Human Rights Activist
Several months ago I was walking across the campus of a Northern California State University to meet a friend. Two young activists stopped me with a question I couldn’t ignore, as I was about to walk across a street. “Do you support gay rights?” One of them asked.
“I do,” I said, wondering where this was going. Those familiar with my story know it took me a long time to get to that place. Even as a proponent of LGBT people, it didn’t mean I had completely tossed out my relatively conservative values.
With the skills of seasoned evangelists, these young women took me down an intellectual and emotional journey of all the reasons we should continue to help the LGBT community, some of whom can still lose their jobs because of their sexual orientations. When they asked me to sign a petition, I asked for a pen. When they asked me for a donation, I reached for my wallet.
“Who do you represent?” I asked.
“The ACLU,” they said.
It was as if I’d stepped out of a warm shower and someone dumped ice water over the top of my head. I grimaced. “Um…I’m good,” I said and walked away.
In my conservative thinking, the ACLU are the crazy ones, founded in socialism and fighting all that is good and holy. I was raised to oppose the ACLU. Giving them money was akin to registering as a soldier for Putin’s army. I’d sooner register as a Democrat!
|It appears to be true what the conservatives say about “those homosexuals,” if we let them have their way then the good ol’ USA will never be the same.|
Still, I’ve changed. I’m not the conservative I once was. Quite honestly, once I started supporting LGBT equality, I started losing my conservative values. It appears to be true what the conservatives say about “those homosexuals,” if we let them have their way then the good ol’ USA will never be the same.
Let’s hope not.
Under our decidedly “Christian nation,” in which I once believed and upheld, we have achieved the number one status in the world with the highest illegal drug use and eighth in prescription drug use; number one in TV watching; number one with most prisoners per capita and home of the largest prisoner populations; number one in teen pregnancies, though number six in divorce rates compared to other nations; number one in student loan debt, though 24th in literacy; and the U.S. has the largest national debt of any nation.
50 million people live below the poverty line, which is nearly 16 percent of the population at one of the richest nations in the world. Healthcare costs per person is $8,233, which is two and a half times more than all other developed nations. What we do well in this country is greed.
Somewhere along my journey I’ve come to realize that people are more important than things and money. Inequality has been historically supported by conservative values, ranging from opposition to civil rights and women’s suffrage to unequal pay. I can no longer support those values.
|Unlike my upbringing, which taught me that uniformity meant security and absolute authority meant order, I’ve discovered that the person in power interprets uniformity and absolute authority.|
I no longer feel the need to control anyone’s behavior but my own. Unlike my upbringing, which taught me that uniformity meant security and absolute authority meant order, I’ve discovered that the person in power interprets uniformity and absolute authority. The goal isn’t progression, it’s to oppress people into submission, particularly those who are different, or don’t fall neatly into the cultural norm of the day. I’ve learned to accept people as they are and, in doing so, appreciate the unique giftings they have to offer.
I believe in family values, even if those families don’t look like mine. The human race, as a species, is built to survive and thrive. There is no one size fits all and I’ve been fortunate enough to experience many types of families, each with a blend of genders, ethnicities and ages. The undeniable, yet reliable thread in all of them is love. I believe in more love and less contention.
I’ve learned to accept people as they are with no expectations for them to change, or become anything more. My friendships have expanded, become richer, and based on nothing more than one human being connected to another. Setting aside judgment has opened me up to not only accept others, but also serendipitously learn compassion for myself.
|The damage done by infusing belief over reason and science continues to harm families and tear at the threads of our nation.|
I no longer believe that religion belongs in politics. While our country was founded on the freedom of religion, it was not founded on religious principles. How could it be? With over 34,000 different denominations within Christianity alone, Christians can’t even agree on which one is right. Evangelical Christianity, of which I was a part, is the newest of the Christian religion sects, developing in the 1730s and evolving into the fundamentalism we see today, only as recently as the first part of the 20th century. The damage done by infusing belief over reason and science continues to harm families and tear at the threads of our nation.
I believe everyone has a right to be heard, regardless of financial position or social status, and that all humans must have equal rights, equal protections and equal dignity. As an educator, I have learned that a formidable company, or nation, is built on the strengths of human capital, diverse thinking, and equal ground. Devaluing one group over another sets up a hierarchy of control and manipulation, allowing a segment of society to gain power and grow rich, subverting and condemning others into servitude.
No, I have not become so open minded that my brains have fallen out, as my father sometimes says of liberals and intellectuals. I still believe in accountability, balanced budgets and smaller government. I believe in a constitution that is by the people and for the people. But I also believe that where there is prejudice and oppression, it’s sometimes necessary for judges to step in and make decisions based on sound reasoning, instead of religious and societal bigotry. If we waited for society to come to the conclusion that black people were humans, too, our nation would likely still be segregated.
As I wrote in my book, “It’s difficult to love people when we see them as an ideology, a false doctrine, or a lifestyle. They cease being people…and become political fodder, which must be debated, voted on and controlled.” I’m not naïve enough to believe that one political party is going to solve all our problems and I’m still staunchly politically independent. While political positioning may inflict the problems, the very real outcome is human casualty. So, I guess I’m losing my conservative values in favor of simple human decency, dignity, and equality.
Photo – Flickr/ Zoe Foodiboo
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