The Raleigh Rant

by John Suddath

The Raleigh Rant

What is Radical Christianity?

What is Radical Christianity?

The Statement of Dogma issued in Nashville on August 30th by cbmw.org (a coalition for biblical sexuality), otherwise known as the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, marked a 14-point position statement of what they think evangelical Christianity should be interpreted to mean. It is not the Good News Gospel. It is a recitation of the theology of the Pharisees.

Jesus was born, raised, and lived as a Jew. He read the Hebrew Bible (we call it the Old Testament.) The story of his life, his message of the Gospel, and the radical shift in theology are what we call the New Testament. The religious people of his day followed a strict observance of the 612 laws of the Hebrew Bible and worshiped a vengeful and wrathful God. He was the protector of the Nation of Israel, and when bad things happened, it was God sending his punishment for their misbehavior. Jesus preached a gospel of Good News, love, and abundant living for all mankind --- not just the chosen few. If somewhat reluctantly at first (he was a good and observant Jew,) he came to understand the possibilities for all mankind to know and accept the wisdom and grace of God.

Read more: What is Radical Christianity?

The T in LGBT

Transgender Soldier

The T in LGBT

Transgender people have been the step-children in the LGBT community. The notoriety of the HB-2 law in North Carolina and the pending legislation in Texas about so-called "bathroom bills" brought them out of the dark into public consciousness. In spite of all the mean-spirited bigotry associated with this publicity, it brought about the unintended consequence of making them visible.

The Twitter edict by the Donald took the abuse a step further in mandating the exclusion of transgender people from the military. The same excuse was used as was used against gays and lesbians that they would hinder combat readinaess. When that issue was raised in the Obama administration, the military took a long time and studied the impact and concluded that allowing LGBT people to serve openly would not create a negative impact. They even spent considerable time and effort in diversity training and surveys to mitigate the transition from the prior exclusionary policies.

After Trump posted one of his infamous tweets, the Defense Department responded that the expulsions would not take effect until a new formal written policy was received from the White House. Those transgender people currently serving in the military would be allowed to remain on active duty until further notice. The White House has since then stitched together a plan that would require them to be phased out over time.

A statement was released by the Palm Center from 56 retired general and flag officers responding to President Trump’s proposed ban on transgender service members in the U.S. military. In their statement, the retired officials stated that such a ban could cause “significant disruptions, deprive the military of mission-critical talent, and compromise the integrity of transgender troops who would be forced to live a lie, as well as non-transgender peers who would be forced to choose between reporting their comrades or disobeying policy.”

This one tweet stirred the pot of hostility and dissension all over again, which in itself will have an impact on military readiness. The Department of Defense just went through this exercise, and now they may have to go through it all over again if Congress or the courts don't act.

The move was a calculated political step to appeal to Trump's base that are mostly homophobic and/or racists. His appeal to the dark side is one of the tactics that helped get him elected, and he is still operating in campaign mode rather than serving as President.

Transgender people of color, both inside and outside the military, already have been particularly vulnerable to harassment and violence. Trump's action only increases that proclivity among some people.

What Becoming Reconciled Means to Me

I wrote this article for the RUM-NC Chapter 14 years ago, and it still summarizes what I believe even though it is out-of-date since we now have federal laws allowing same-sex marriage.

What Becoming Reconciled Means to Me

Is it fair to ask a 70-year-old woman to question her beliefs about what she's been taught all her life? Is it right to upset her system or reasoning about morality and what's right and wrong. In an effort to right the wrong of generations of discrimination, we sometimes I fear are too condescending in considering the opinions and beliefs of those with whom with disagree.

Sometimes it seems to me that this whole controversy within the Methodist Church has become a political movement and a referendum on homosexuality. I don't want anyone to endorse my sexual orientation or even accept it. In a perfect world, it wouldn't even be an issue.

The Christian Church from the beginning has had difficulty in dealing with sexuality. The question of celibacy and enforced abstinence are not biblical but rather outgrowths of centuries of myths and traditions. To accept homosexuals openly within a church doesn't mean that you accept or overlook the differences. The idea of sex outside of traditional marriage is repellent to many Christians, and I don't intend to question or challenge their beliefs. On the other hand, I don't expect them to condemn me simply because I'm different from them.

The issue is that because of the condemnation of their sexual orientation, which cannot be changed, an entire class of people have been alienated and/or rejected by the church. We are admonished to go and preach the gospel to all the world, and that includes gays and lesbians, the majority of whom are not affiliated with any church --- for good reasons. To me, it is an issue of evangelism, not proselytizing for a cause.

Of course, many gays and lesbians have remained active in the church in spite of the hostile atmosphere and official condemnation. We're lumped together with drug addicts, alcoholics, and sex offenders as suffering from some physical or mental disease. Church people claim to love the sinner but hate their sin, and if only we would "reject our sin" then we could be accepted. Well, the American Psychological Association 31 years ago declared that same-sex orientation was not a deviant behavior nor abnormal --- just different than the majority. We've been a minority of the population since the beginning of time, and no one really knows why.

To become reconciled with one's self, one's identity, and one's sexuality is to become whole. To become a committed member of group is to declare one's self as a whole person and not a sham or to pretend to be we're something we're not. Conversely, when the group knows and understands us as complete persons then they can identify with us and welcome us to the group.

I think that promoting same sex unions and domestic partner benefits is threatening to many people and pushing the political agenda too hard. We have too many other unresolved issues to deal with first, such as non-discrimination in the workplace, housing, and legal standing. In many states we're still self-declared felons, and thus stripped of all rights by simple definition of belonging to a class of people, a clear violation of the Bill of Rights.

But the Methodist Church can never come to terms with this issue via legal wrangling or political maneuvering. It can only come to terms by realizing that the mission of evangelism is primary, and that the church is failing to reach millions of people who otherwise might be saved. To me, who I slept with last night is none of your business. I don't ask you, and I don't expect you to ask me, especially in church. On the other hand, if the Discipline condemns me and others like me unconditionally, then how can we be expected to be loyal to such a denomination?

Many small, older, dying inner city congregations have accepted gays and lesbians into their congregations as they have moved into the neighborhoods. In fact, they've been more openly accepted than people of color, because in other ways " they're such nice people." The Gospel doesn't ordain us to preach only to nice people or people of the same race. We are exhorted to reach out to all people, and that includes people of same-sex orientation. Let's get on with the mission of evangelism and quit quibbling about the dominance of liberal or conservative theological constructs. It's not the Methodist Church that needs to be saved from division. It's the millions of people who don't know the Christ and won't have the opportunity because of the rigidity of some church leaders.

Gay Pride

Pride Parade

What is Gay Pride?

Most major cities worldwide sponsor a parade, a street fair, or festival, etc. during June to celebrate Gay Pride. These events attract not only LGBT people and their allies but also even the curious who may be intrigued to see the show. Scantily clad folks and female impersonators have been standard barers (pardon the pun) for many years. But the events are more than just an excuse to party. The dates vary, depending upon the city, but the purpose is the same: to celebrate and demonstrate LGBT visibility to the community. We were invisible for so long, and that only resulted in more persecution.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court approved same-sex marriage two years ago (and most European nations even earlier,) LGBT people still face discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations in many states. The Obama Administration also promoted LGBT human rights with federal agencies and contractors, but the current administration and Congress are unlikely to even consider any legislation providing federal anti-discrimination protections.

Perhaps we became complacent because of advances we've made in recent decades after centuries of hatred and oppression, particularly by the church. We've gotten a wake-up call from Donald Trump that assault on LGBT people is OK and that states may opt-out of court orders by claiming religious freedom, i.e. freedom to discriminate based solely upon one's sexual orientation or gender identity. Transgender and people of color seem to be particularly vulnerable to outright hatred and bigotry.

Some heterosexual people ask why we have to "flaunt" our sexuality. But they do it every day by holding hands in public, putting photos of their spouses on their desks at work, and assuming that everyone is just like them. Although we may be a minority of the population, we are not unique in history and have been around for a long time and in all cultures and societies. Some were more repressive, and others were more tolerant.

The common thread has been the long-term condemnation by organized religions, not just Christianity. We were considered a threat to the established order, particularly among patriarchial societies. Expression of human sexuality for anything other than procreation was discouraged and considered unclean. It wasn't part of the natural order of things and certainly not an aspect of life to be enjoyed as a mutual expression of love. It was limited to a duty to preserve the human race, and that was it. The absolute rule of the majority prevailed, and any variation was condemned. Some Protestant denominations have softened their stance, but most are still fighting the so-called culture wars.

Self-acceptance and understanding are perhaps the foremost steps in achieving maturity and mental health. Because we were repressed and/or murdered for so long, we were accused of being mentally unstable. When anyone is treated as we were, it creates a deep anxiety and frustration. We have fought a long battle to become proud and accepting of who we are, regardless of the consequences.

We have the right to be proud.

Photos of Pride parades around the world

Christian Values

Christian Values

For decades, all denominations of the Christian church have been pre-occupied with human sexuality: sexual orientation, gender identify, birth control, and abortion. Some denominations seem to focus on these issues to the exclusion of all other social issues. As I read the Bible, Jesus taught more about concerns for the poor and the downtrodden. Some who call themselves Christian, however, seem comfortable with throwing 23 million people off of access to medical care. I don't recall any righteous indignation about spending $110 million on a painting or $300,000 for a purse. The media portray it as cool even if it is outrageous.

When I was active with the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) 30 years ago, the buzzword was social responsibility. Corporations and other organizations not only existed to make a profit, they were to work with their local communities as citizens of those towns and not as dictators. CEO's did not have rubber-stamp boards of directors who approved obscenely high salaries or unlimited profit sharing options. They were paid well, but they also had a responsibility to serve the public welfare, their employees, and their shareholders. Now too many seem to be in business just to see how much money they can get for themselves and their cronies. That may seem like a too broad indictment of corporations, but that attitude seems to be rampant ¾ particularly in the financial services industry that doesn't actually produce anything other than to simply shuffle money around electronically. They're in it to game the system and not to provide resources or funds for other businesses and individuals like the old-fashioned banks used to do. They provided a valuable service of giving credit to those who needed it to build a business or buy a house.

Even the word welfare has assumed a negative connotation as though it only meant giving a hand-out. Some say that is the sole role of charitable organizations and not a function of government. When the economic structures of our society dislocate people who through no fault of their own lose jobs, then the government is the only entity that has the resources to help these people. A more reasonable definition might be "the public good." Henry Ford understood this. When he paid his workers a living wage, they were able to buy his cars and thus created a "virtuous circle." When many in the lower economic classes are struggling just to survive, they are not able to purchase anything but the bare necessities. Better wages would grow the economy, and economists have demonstrated that it would have a neutral effect on costs. Better trained, healthy and self-sufficient employees are more efficient, and the turn-over is lower. A 125 years ago the robber barons considered their employees to be expendable because there were monopolies and no unions. There always was someone willing to take the place of someone who was fired, and there was no recourse. That seems to be the attitude of some CEO's today. We'll just take our business elsewhere if you don't capitulate to our demands.

The United States is a nation of immigrants, and the President's family were immigrants. Yet we treat them as less than human. Our service industries, like restaurants and hotels, and farms could not survive without migrant workers. The distinction is made between those who enter via temporary permits and those who enter without a permit, that is illegally. Those who are hostile to immigrants see themselves as protecting law and order even though the mass deportations create chaos as well as untold human suffering. It's really a code word for racism.

The LGBT community is just one group of many minorities in this nation, and we must all bind together to defend our rights from those who would persecute us for their own gain or bigotry. I won't even go into the issue of race relations. That will have to be a topic in itself.