Thursday, February 13, 2014

We're Getting There!

People have demonized LGBT’s long enough and it’s time for it to stop.  These same people who are doing the demonizing forget that gays, lesbians, and transgendered people are human, too, with the same feelings, emotions, wants, and needs as anyone else.  They laugh, cry, hurt, and feel joy.  They’re kind, compassionate, and they love deeply.  They care about others and will help them when and where they can.  They’re humanitarians, philanthropists, and they care about what happens to our world.  They live in all corners of the earth, from all professions, races, cultures, and religions.  They love their family, friends, and pets, and they feel grief when they lose them.  Like every one of us, they bleed red.  In fact, they’re just like you and me with the exception of their sexual preferences, and that’s the only difference. 

So why are people demonizing this segment of the human race and making them out to be some evil entities who are out to destroy humanity?  I hate to say it, but most of it comes from religion and those who interpret words in the Bible to back up their fear and homophobia.  They interpret these words to back up their hate and bigotry rather than focusing on the very words of Jesus when he gave the greatest commandment over all others which is to love one another.  Oh sure, they believe they’re to love others….except for those who end up on their personal “do not love list” and they use religion and their Bible to justify it. 

I have a confession to make.  I used to believe the same thing.  I bought into the religious hyperbole about what the religious leaders told us we had to believe, and who we should love and not love.  And, of course, they had their Bible verses to back up their beliefs; ergo, what should also be my beliefs.  Like them, I believed that anyone who didn’t believe the way I did would go straight to hell.  I was just as homophobic as the next homophobic until the Universe gave me that big ol’ spiritual smack on the back of the head and told me to snap out of it.  Okay, it wasn’t that quick a lesson, but through various experiences, the lessons did come. 

The first lesson was when I went to a Hungarian dance in 1979 and I saw my first transgendered person and exclaimed to my friend that “it” wasn’t even human.  Or when I was in the Hollywood bookstore and met a transgendered person who had been a man, became “saved” according to his religion, and was becoming a woman again.  And while there, another transgendered person walked in with a guy I knew.  This person had been a man, became a woman, had been “saved,” and was going to become a man again.  Before we left, my friend suggested that we all hold hands and pray, and I found myself holding hands with a transgender on both sides of me.  Talk about freaking my freak!  But then something happened.  While they were praying, I heard the words just as clearly as if someone were speaking them to me, “Karen, these are my children, too, and I love them just as much as any of my children.”  I won’t lie.  It didn’t change me right then and there, but it planted the seeds.

It took about twelve years, but when I moved to Nashville in 1992, I started to meet some gays and became friends with them.  I learned they’re people just like anyone else.  In fact, they were and are some of the most loving, decent, kind-hearted people I’ve ever known.  My heart started to soften.  And I began to open my heart to the truth. Today, I have many, many wonderful gay friends!

Not long after that, I began a spiritual journey outside the confines of traditional religion, and I began to really gain wisdom and understanding to the real meaning of Jesus’ words to love one another.  He made no exceptions.  He meant to love all people unconditionally.  All the great spiritual masters in the various religions taught this.  What’s sad, though, is that too many still don’t get it.  It really is all about love, kindness, compassion, and how we can get along with each other as one race.  The human race. 

I am a heterosexual, but sometimes I hesitate saying it because I shouldn’t have to.  Gays shouldn’t have to say that they’re gay.  That’s like going around and telling people that we’re human.  If we take the labels off, then we aren’t so apt to judge and condemn.  It’s only when we attach labels that we start separating people and making some good and some bad according to our beliefs about those labels.  If you took a large crowd of people and asked someone to point out the heterosexuals, gays, Democrats, Republicans, Baptists, Catholics, Jews, etc., they couldn’t do it.  Therefore, it’s much easier to love someone if you don’t know their label. 

Times are changing.  The world is moving forward into the future and we need to move forward with it.  In times past, there were laws against the American Indians, Jews, Japanese, blacks, women, interracial marriages, and so on.  Some are still being oppressed, but today we can add Muslims, gays, Mexicans, and well, you can add your own.  As you can see, even though we have a long ways to go, we’ve also come a long ways.

As much as I respect the Bible for what it is, what it means for so many, and the good it has done in the world, I am also tired of it being used as a weapon of mass destruction…a weapon that is being used by so many (not all) church leaders and politicians in order to keep people oppressed and downtrodden.  These same people complain that those who stand up for the rights of the LBGT community are picking and choosing Bible verses to stand up for gay rights, and yet the complainers are the very ones who are doing the picking and choosing to back up their own hate and prejudices.  It’s hard to understand how they cannot see that they are guilty of the very things they are complaining about.

Some say that gays and gay marriages are a threat to heterosexual marriages.  Really?  I would think that divorce and infidelity would be more of a threat!  According to the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology, the average divorce rates are 50% for first marriages, 67% for second marriages, and 74% for third marriages.  But do we hear church leaders condemning those who have been divorced, sometimes numerous times, or have been unfaithful?  Rarely, if ever.  It’s easier to condone when so many are guilty of these issues themselves. 

Churches and church leaders in particular need to move forward in time rather than trying to live in Biblical times past.  People are leaving the churches in droves because they are seeing the hypocrisy of what church leaders are saying.  The Bible states that Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."  (John 13:35)   So many of church leaders and politicians claim to be speaking for God, but I sure don’t hear a whole lot of love coming out of their mouths or being witnessed by their actions.

Am I bashing religion, church leaders, the church, and politicians?  Not at all!  There are many, many who are very loving and positive and they teach the beautiful lessons of their spiritual masters.  They are becoming more accepting and inclusive.  Personally, I believe that as a minister, it is my purpose to spread a message of love, peace, compassion, harmony, kindness, and oneness.  I also won’t claim to speak for God, but I can speak of my beliefs of God, and I believe that God, Universe, Spirit, Life, Nature...whatever you choose to call him/her/it…is nothing but pure, unconditional, perfect love. 

Please do not be discouraged or cynical.  People are changing and for the better.  They’re starting to “get it” in that it really is about unconditional love.  Our young people especially are getting more involved in humanitarian causes because they know it’s important to love and take care of each other regardless of our differences.  There are more and more groups working for the greater good of all.  The problem is that we just don’t hear about them.  People need to be educated so that hate, bigotry, and ignorance can be eradicated.  We have to do this in love and peace because we don’t want to give anyone an excuse to justify their negative beliefs.  It’s being done!  We’re getting there! 

My theory is that we are in a grand spiritual/cosmic awakening and everything that isn’t working is coming to the surface.  Like an infected finger, the pus needs to come to the surface before we can see it, cleanse it, and heal it.  Just looking at what’s been happening in the world these past few years, we can see all the darkness that is coming to light.  And it is that light that is going to eliminate the darkness.  My favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. quote is “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” 

As we move through the New Year, we have a lot of work to do to bring equality to all areas of humanity.  As Gandhi said, we can be the change people wish to see to see in the world, and if we work together, we can see that change so much sooner.  It’s coming, my dear friends.  And we’ll all be a better people and a better world because of it.


Published in the Upper Cumberland Equality newsletter ~ January 2014 issue.
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Friday, February 7, 2014

Times Are Changing

Has anyone else happened to notice how fast the world is changing?  In just these past few years, technology alone has gone into hyper-speed to the point where it’s hard for me to keep up.  I’m doing good just to figure out basic cell phone procedures, and yet toddlers are now able to use the most complicated technical devices.

Can you imagine what it would be like if society decided they were going to stay with technology and products from past generations and not move forward with anything new?  Technology has improved our lives tremendously and most times, we are better because of it.  Of course, it has some drawbacks such as people consistently using their cell phones, computers, etc., rather than communicating with others face-to-face.

Among many things that have been changing is the church and I think it coincides with the changing of our generations.  Because we didn’t have the social medias that we have today, most of us only knew what was in our own communities, social circles, or cultures, and much of that included our church life.  Today, the world is at our finger tips and we now know that there is so much more out there than we could have ever dreamed. 

Diversity is also expanding at a very fast pace and if the church is to survive, it needs to embrace our ever changing world the way so many are doing so today.  That doesn’t mean tossing out all our beliefs and starting over with new ones.  It just means that we can no longer sit in judgment and condemn others just because of our differences.  As a minister, I don’t know how many people I have talked to who said they no longer go to church because they did not feel accepted, and some were even turned away because of any perceived differences.  It’s even turned some off to God!

People are beginning to get it in that it really is all about the love and the way we treat our fellow beings.  More and more are taking Jesus’ words to heart (or whoever their religious Masters are) and know that we really do need to learn to love each other unconditionally.  That doesn’t mean condoning criminal acts, etc.  People still need to be held accountable for their actions when they harm others.

Cookeville and the surrounding areas have so many wonderful religions and churches, and there are many that are very welcoming and accepting of whoever walks in their front door.  There’s a church for just about every belief system, and if you’re looking for a church to attend, please keep looking because you will find one that resonates with your beliefs.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that we all need to find ways to come together in peace and harmony, celebrate our differences, and know that there can be peace upon us if we would just come together and get to know each other as human beings.  We don’t have to agree with someone’s beliefs that might be different from ours.  We can agree to disagree.  But please, the fighting and arguing has got to stop if we are going to live our Masters’ teachings of loving one another. 

At this time, I attend Unity Church of the Cumberlands and I love our church family.  There is so much love between all of us, and we love and welcome people just as they are.  No judgments.  No condemnation.  Just love.  And there are other churches in our area that do the same.  (Please don’t misunderstand; I am not criticizing ANY church or belief system.  I love the diversity of our different beliefs.)

In Unity, at the end of every service, we form a circle around the sanctuary, shoulder to shoulder, everyone holds hands, and we sing the Peace Song Unity style.  “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.  Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be.  With God as Creator, family all are we.  Let us walk with each other, in perfect harmony.  Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now.  With every step I take, let this by my solemn vow: To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally, Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me!”

Let us all move forward with love, peace, and harmony in our hearts towards all.  In the words of Mother Teresa, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”   And James Allen stated, “Harmony is one phase of the law whose spiritual expression is love.”  Namaste.


Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper February 7, 2014.

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