There is no “but…”

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I spent much of the weekend glued to my phone, watching what was happening in Charlottesville, VA. From the torch wielding march on Friday night, to the murder of Heather Heyer on Saturday, to the original lackluster response from the president, the events of the weekend consumed me.

 

The naked, unmasked hatred on display shocked me. What upset me eve more, however, was the intense amount of hedging I saw from other white people. Taking a cue from the highest office in the country, I saw instance after instance of “on many sides” being spoken.

Let me speak without equivocation. There is no “but” that can follow a condemnation of white nationalism. There is no “but” that can follow a censure of Nazi slogans being chanted. There is no “but” that can follow a denouncement of “Jews are not welcome here.”

You don’t get to say, “But Black Lives Matter is just as bad.” BLM stands for equality, neo-Nazis stand for white superiority. BLM stands for peace, neo-Nazis stand for violence. BLM is not to blame for white supremacy.

You don’t get to blame say, “But they shouldn’t have removed the statue of the Robert E. Lee because of possible repercussions.” This isn’t “removing history,” it’s removing a celebration of someone who fought against the United States in favor of slavery. Those statues are traitorous and racist. Statue removal is not to blame for white supremacy.

You don’t get to say, “But what about reverse racism.” First of all, reverse racism is not a thing. But even if there are instances where a person of color has something that a white person doesn’t, that doesn’t excuse hundreds of young white men marching around screaming “blood and soil!” Reverse racism is not to blame for white supremacy.

You don’t get to say, “But the antifa activists are just as violent!” If you’ve ever suggested that students need to arm themselves against Muslims so you can end them because you see them as a threat, you have already stated that you think violence is an acceptable response to a threat. If you support the NRA’s violent rhetoric, you have stated that you believe force is acceptable when dealing with threats. We can certainly have conversations about the use of force to take down a threat, but unless you consider yourself a pacifist, you can’t talk about how the antifa are responsible for violence. Antifa is not to blame for white supremacy.

You don’t get to say, “But I need time to process what all of this means.” While it’s true that knee-jerk reactions aren’t generally advisable, we can safely condemn overt, blatant racist behavior without the passage of time. We may take time to craft a more nuanced condemnation, but when we see something deserving of our ire, we can voice our disdain immediately. Calls for a quick response are not to blame for white supremacy.

What allows white supremacy to flourish is when we make excuses for it. Every time we add a “but” to our condemnations, we give white supremacy more power. Every time we add a “but” to our disapproval, we give white supremacy more room to grow.

Every time we add a “but” in our conversations about white supremacy, we make ourselves an ass.

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Transgender Lives are not a Burden

Content warning: suicide

Finn & Mom
The ban on transgender people serving in the military has been weighing on my mind since I saw it yesterday morning. My kids have not indicated an interest to serve in the military, so it’s not really about that, but rather the language used.

“Burden.” 

“Disruption.”

These words keep turning over in my head.

I’m in several groups for parents of transgender kids. Last month, one of the moms lost her son to suicide. Their dinner conversation had been about ways to afford his medication after their insurance claim had been denied and they were told that their income was a bit too high to receive patient assistance. This was a fully supportive family, but when they were talking about ways to afford a $1400 monthly shot, Finn might have felt like he was a burden, a disruption. In the middle of the night, he laid himself down on the train tracks. His mom found out the following morning that her son was dead.

Many of us have sat in a hospital room with our trans kids with threats of suicide, or suicide attempts. We’ve sat there, grateful that we have our children, wondering how we can keep them safe, wondering how we can ease their pain in a way that allows them to stay with us. Suicide statistics for transgender people decrease dramatically with the support of their family, but we are reminded regularly that there is no way to eliminate them. Finn’s death haunts me because it reminds me that our children’s lives are fragile.

But a burden? A disruption? No.

We create burdens and disruptions in the lives of transgender people all the time, and then have the audacity to say that they are somehow bringing it on themselves. Or worse, that their mere existence is a burden and disruption for us.

We have to change our thinking. 

There is disruption in the life of a trans person every time the wrong name is used.

There is disruption in the life of a trans person every time the wrong pronouns are used.

There is disruption in the life of a trans person every time there is a hint that they can be made cis if they’d just pray harder.

There is a burden placed on the life of a trans person every time someone votes to restrict where they can use the bathroom.

There is a burden placed on the life of a trans person every time they are called “confused” or “perverted” or “abomination.”

There is a burden placed on the life of a trans person every time they are denied a place in a church simply because of their gender identity.

The good thing is that we can remove some of these burdens and disruptions. We can use chosen names and correct pronouns. We can educate ourselves on the damage inflicted by reparative therapy. We can let our lawmakers know that we support laws that protect transgender people rather than punishing them. We can affirm the gender identities of all people we meet, rather than just those that we feel comfortable around. We can embrace all genders as a part of God’s family.

Let’s work together to unburden our trans brothers and sisters. Let’s disrupt their lives in the best possible way, by showing them our love and support.

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4 Ways to Overcome Choosing Sin when it comes to Homosexuality

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Hey there. We need to talk about homosexuality and the sin that you keep choosing.

I imagine you’re feeling pretty worn out by the fight over your lifestyle choice. I get it. Urges are hard to overcome. Sometimes even when we know the right thing to do, the thing we want to do feels way better, at least in the moment. But in the long term, you have to admit, it hurts you and the people around you. There are lots of stories that prove that, if you’re willing to look past your feelings.

I get that it’s hard not to react when an organization like World Vision or a pastor like Eugene Peterson change their minds about this. We like to know that the people we’ve trusted are on our side, and it feels pretty gross when it turns out that they’re not. It makes us want to fly our flag even higher and shout even louder. It makes us want to double down on our sin. But we must fight those impulses. We must not allow our sin natures to get the best of us. We can choose a better way.

I know what you want to say. It’s not just feelings, the Bible says it’s okay! And sure, if you just look at a couple of passages out of context, it certainly might seem like the Bible wants you to just do what feels good. But we can’t just pick and choose what passages we want to follow. And the overarching theme of the Bible tells us that what you’re choosing is a sin.

Maybe you don’t even believe that it’s a choice. Maybe you think that this is just how God wants you to behave. But I can tell you, it’s not. Your choices are just that – choices. You can choose something different. I’m going to tell you a few ways you can choose something better for you, and better for the world by choosing something other than your fear and prejudice against LGBTQ people.

  1. Read something that challenges your beliefs. I recommend Torn by Justin Lee, God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines, or  Changing Our Mind by David Gushee. If we’re not open to hearing from the people we are sinning against, sometimes it can be hard to see our sin. Listening to the words of those who are calling out our sin can be a big step toward confessing and making a change.
  2. Pray about it. Really take time to examine your heart before God about your fear and prejudice against LGBTQ people. God promises to forgive our sin when we pray.
  3. Go to church. Not just any church – look for an affirming church. Go and see how God uses LGBTQ people in the Body. Listen to a gay pastor preach. Take communion with a transgender woman. Discover the ways that the LGBTQ community is enriching the Church and join with them.
  4. Repent. It’s hard to admit that we hold prejudice and fear in our hearts, but when we believe that we can determine who is really a Christian based on their gender identity or who they fall in love with, that’s what we’re holding onto. The Bible tells us the perfect love casts out fear. When we repent of our fear, we can love. Jesus said that people will know we are disciples by our love. Repent and turn to love.

It may be a lot to take in. Maybe it wasn’t even what you were expecting. Know this, choosing not to sin in this way will cost you. You may lose friends and family, you may lose prestige, in some circumstances, you may even lose a job. But we can make that choice. We can turn away from our sin, and turn toward freedom. We can turn away from fear, and run toward love.

It’s your choice.

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My First Pride

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Yesterday I attended my first Pride. Two of my kids, one of my step-kids, and a girlfriend drove up to Pittsburgh, battling traffic in a triangle-shaped city with two major events happening at the same time and with me forgetting my wallet so I had no cash to help us through the day. But even with some minor set-backs at the beginning of the day (we all managed to find parking and my son has a job that primarily pays in cash so he could afford lunch for everyone), we had a really phenomenal time.

In the days leading up to Pride, I read a story about a Pulse victim whose father had refused to claim his son’s body. I thought about the massive LGBTQ homeless population. I thought about the mother who wrote about giving her child over to the Devil on his wedding day. I thought about Ruth Coker Burks and the hundreds of gay men who were abandoned by their families when they contracted AIDS.

My heart broke with the weight of pain and abandonment that so many LGBTQ people are forced to endure.

I had crocheted up nearly 200 hearts and with some help, had them all pinned onto a giant heart that said “Love is Love.” As we walked up and down the festival, we would approach groups of people and offer them a heart pin. I gave hugs, shared a little of my story, met some other parents there to support their LGBTQ kids, blinked back tears more than a few times. I was nervous that giving out these tokens might be seen as an act of condescension, but over and over, it was perceived as I had hoped – a little gift of love from me to them.

What was even more lovely was seeing how my kids reacted as I handed them out. It meant so much to me that my kids know without question that I support them and love them. That they don’t have to walk this path alone. That they have an advocate right in their own home.

A year ago today our country was rocked as the news of a shooting in a gay nightclub murdered 49 people and injured 58 more. My kids had made plans to attend Pride, and a part of me wanted to keep them home. Maybe the shooting would encourage more hate. Maybe it was part of a larger, more coordinated effort to murder LGBTQ people. Maybe I was sending my kids into danger.

But that’s what Pride is. It’s a reminder of the Stonewall Riots of 1969, when LGBTQ people revolted against a system that refused to allow them even the dignity of being themselves in bars. It’s a reminder that there is danger in being openly LGBTQ, even nearly 50 years later. It’s a reminder that when the community bands together, they have a strength that they don’t have individually.

That was what was beautiful about attending Pride yesterday. Seeing thousands of people who, despite the risks, were there to celebrate their lives. Not merely to celebrate being gay or trans or non-binary or queer, though that was part of it, but to celebrate being alive. To celebrate overcoming potential abandonment by their families, overcoming rejection from the Church, overcoming fear of violence and even death. Each person I met was brimming with that life, with that celebratory spirit.

The world can be hard and cruel. People who should love us will let us down. We may even lose our lives. But should learn from our LGBTQ friends – every day we’re alive is a day to be proud. 

And every day one of our LGBTQ friends survive, we should be proud of them. 

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Wild Flowers and Maternity Clothes

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The day we came home from the hospital after Elliott’s birth, everything was gone. We were still a month out from his due date, so there wasn’t a lot of baby stuff accumulated yet, but we’d picked up a few items. One couple had given us a car seat. Another friend of mine from high school had mailed us a huge package of cloth diapers and covers. Rich asked a friend to get them and take them away for us. I’m still not sure where they were donated.

My maternity clothes, however, were still there, folded on the shelf.

For the past three years, they have stayed in my closet. I’ve pulled them out, intending to get rid of them a few times, but I could never quite bring myself to actually load them into my car and drop them off at a clothing donation site.

Stillbirth leaves you with so little of the child. I have about a dozen pictures of our son that I look at from time to time. I have a box of the clothes he wore for those pictures. I have a mold of his hands and feet. I have a towel that a friend had sewn for him.  That’s it.

My time with Elliott when he was alive was confined to my pregnancy. And so much of that time was filled with fear and regret. A child conceived outside of marriage. The product of an affair. A late in life, “don’t you know how that happens” baby. An infant who wasn’t going to get a baby shower because of the sins of his parents.

But there were flashes of kindness. The car seat. The diapers. The towel. And the maternity clothes. Someone I knew online had seen a post I put up asking local friends where I could find cheap maternity clothes, and a few days later, a package filled with tops and shorts and dresses arrived at my door. A few days later, I wore my favorite, a black and white polka-dot dress with an orange bow to my son’s trumpet recital, grateful that I had something pretty and new.

The clothes reminded me of the passage in Luke where Jesus encouraged his followers not to worry, that they had more value than birds and grass. Those maternity clothes were the wild flowers clothing the grass.  They reminded me that I was more than my wrong choices. The clothes represented forgiveness, provision, acceptance. For me, for my yet unborn son.

So held onto the clothes. For three years.

A few days ago, another plea went out on my social media feed asking if anyone had any maternity clothes they would be willing to part with. And while there was a moment of hesitation – how could I give away one of my few remaining links with my son? – it was short-lived.

We met this morning, and I hugged her as her husband loaded the box into their minivan. I cried tears of grief as I drove back home, thinking about Elliott, who would be three on Sunday, if that day had gone differently. I cried tears of longing thinking about what it was like to feel him rolling and stretching inside of me and how I don’t get to hold that squirming, writhing little boy. I cried tears of regret for the time I spent fearing my pregnancy rather than reveling in it.

I cried tears of joy because sometimes wild flowers are a black and white polka-dot maternity dress with an orange bow that remind us that we are loved.

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Giving Your Child to the Devil Invites the Devil Closer

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My firstborn just messaged me to let me know that the guy who was trying to get free chicken nuggets from Wendy’s now has the most retweets of anyone, so he’s getting his nuggs. Other recent texts include discussions about the leaked episodes of Orange is the New Black (he watched them, I haven’t), how we felt about 13 Reasons Why, finalizing dates for our summer vacation, making plans for our surprise birthday/Mother’s Day tattoos. It’s a rare day that we don’t make contact with one another in some way. We’ve gone through some difficult seasons in our relationship, but overall, I think he’d agree with me that we’re close.

Earlier today, I read a post from a mom who has cut off all relationship with her gay son, saying that she has given him over to the Devil. In it, she talks about being unable to sleep, feeling desperation and hopelessness, experiencing guilt, despair, and fear. It is a deeply sad post, and my heart breaks for the loss of relationship that she and her son are experiencing. Primarily because it does not have to be this way.

One of the things I have always been taught is that we can know if our actions are pleasing to God based on their fruit. Good actions result in good fruit, bad actions result in bad fruit. Galatians says that the fruits of the Spirit (presumably the good fruits our lives should exhibit) are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

While I suppose there is an element of faithfulness to the letter of the law is present in her life, in her own words, few of the others seem to be there. A parent tossing and turning at night because they have broken the relationship with a child who they clearly love is bringing about bad fruit. Not love, but fear. Not peace, but despair. Not goodness, but hopelessness.

Justin Lee spoke at my church a few weeks ago, and one of the things he said was that if Scripture and compassion are pitted against each other, it’s a red flag that something has gone horribly wrong. I wholeheartedly agree with that idea. The spirit of the law gives life, and in the absence of that life, we should reevaluate the choices that we’ve made.

Parenting LGBTQ kids can have difficult days, regardless of whether or not we choose to accept our kids. There will be things we may not understand. There will be people who will try to make us second-guess our decisions. There will be days when we struggle to parent well. Parenting is hard, no matter the circumstances.

This mother, and so many like her, are not bad people. I believe they are doing harmful things to their children, and to themselves, quite frankly, but I don’t think it’s borne of malicious intent. However, in giving her child over to the Devil, she has given herself over to the Devil as well. When we place one of our own into the hands of the Devil, we place our own hearts there as well. By choosing the letter of the law, she is reaping death.

I have not yet met a parent who accepts their LGBTQ child who feels hopelessness or despair. I have not met an affirming parent who can’t sleep at night because of that decision. Because they choose to follow the ways of Jesus, who gave up everything to pursue relationship with us, they are reaping good fruit. They are reaping an abundant life.

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Loving My Kids Shouldn’t Require Bravery

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We have a few newish drivers in our house and I am the worst person to take them out to learn to drive. I white-knuckle my way through every harder-than-necessary brake. I suck in breath when they get a little closer to the side of the road than I think is comfortable. I grab onto the door for dear life when they take a turn too fast. I have abdicated all driving lessons to their dad or step-dad because if I’m in the car, my fears will absolutely not help them learn to drive well. Teaching my kids to drive requires a courage that I do not possess.

There are lots of moments in parenting that require bravery. We need to be brave when we send our kids off to school. We are brave when we let them cook their first meal and then eat it with them. We are brave when we let them hang out with friends at the mall or go on dates or put them in the church nursery. Honestly, just about everything we do as parents requires us to exercise some level of courage. We’re raising human beings, after all. That’s a pretty massive charge.

One area where we don’t usually need to exhibit any kind of exceptional fortitude is in the way that we show love to our kids. For the most part, that happens automatically. We don’t generally point to parents who love their kids as behaving in a particularly heroic fashion. Loving our offspring tends to be our natural response as parents. In fact, our love is what drives the fears we need to overcome in all other area. Fear of car crashes, fear of broken hearts, fear of any kind of harm. We love our kids, so we have to be brave when we let them do things that could put them in any kind of danger.

People have told me that I’m brave for speaking out for my LGBTQ kids, but the truth is, that isn’t bravery, it’s just love. My kids are funny, smart, talented, interesting people, and sharing about them is easy for me. Keeping parts of them hidden is much harder for me because I always want them to know just how much I love them and how proud I am of them.

What makes it brave to share about all aspects of my kids is that many have made it clear that I should not be proud of all of the parts of my kids. They look at things like gender expression or orientation as negative traits that at the very least, I should be ashamed of and not speak about.

If simply speaking about my kids the way any proud parent speaks about their kids make me brave, then you need to compliment my kids and the LGBTQ population way more. Because support is, for the most part, easy. Actually living your life authentically as an LGBTQ person requires far more courage. It can mean losing jobs. It can mean losing housing. It can mean putting yourself in physical danger. It can mean experiencing state sanctioned bigotry. It can mean being kicked out of a church. It can mean being rejected by the people who should find it the easiest to love you.

Allies who receive that treatment do so only because the opinion of LGBTQ people is so low that even saying, “Hey, I affirm their humanity,” is too much to handle. Because affirming humanity should be a relatively simple thing for all of us to do. Especially if we’re parents.

I’m brave only because people have made it dangerous for me to do the most natural thing a mom does: love her kids.

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