Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Anoka/Hennepin: Tear Down That Wall (of Deadly Homophobia)!

In the last year, 7 young people in the Anoka/Hennepin School District have committed suicide, 3 directly related to being or being perceived as LGBTQ. The wall of silence, also known in the district as "neutrality," is creating some strange fruit hanging from the trees up there.

Because, although they say that these youth committed suicide, they were actually killed by those within their community, their schools, their churches, and in other contexts that should rather have held their tongues than spouted wounding words. It was merely a sleight of the District's hand that made it look like the young people killed themselves.

What a sleight of hand the Anoka/Hennepin School Board pulled by saying that the sexual orientation policy had to do only with curriculum, and not with bullying! As though they weren't able to see a connection between the wall of silence they created, the bullying by students, teachers, pastors, some family members, and other "concerned citizens," and the deaths that resulted.

The Anoka/Hennepin School Board had such a problem with hearing the truth about their policies in their August 23, 2010 meeting, that the recording of those proceedings was somehow glitched or lost. This was the meeting at which the mother and friends of Justin Aaberg, one of the gay youth who committed suicide in that district, spoke from their hearts about how his death affected them, and how the district is still a dangerous place for LGBTQ, and even hetero, youth.

This is a Berlin Wall moment.

The wall of homophobia that was built around these youth, the wall of hatred and bureaucratic nonsense that was built around those for whom sexual orientation was not the main factor in their deaths, must be toppled once and for all.

Anoka/Hennepin School Board, what is keeping you from saving the lives of your students? Is it the mis-named PAL, Parents Action League, which hides itself behind a wall of anonymity? Which cries about receiving hate mail, as though it has not been out to engender it? Which claims as its motto, "Education, not Indoctrination," when what is meant by indoctrination is enacting measures that will stop gay kids from killing themselves?

Anoka/Hennepin area Churches (of the variety that preach against homosexuality), is it your contention that God wants gay and lesbian kids dead? Do you believe that the heart of the Gospel is in Leviticus 20:13? Do you pride yourselves on the success of this message over that of the saving Gospel? Because the Gospel SAVES; it does not KILL.

To paraphrase Psalm 13, How Long, Anoka/Hennepin, will you lay waste to those who did you no wrong?

How long will you taunt, spit at, beat up, and terrorize young people who did nothing but get up and go to school?

How long will you preach that God is a super-terrorist, that the fulfillment of the Gospel is death of those you believe God would oppose, that Jesus was more concerned with where a person's penis was put than where a person's heart is?

How long will you justify yourselves with policies, when coffins continue to be draped in a sea of tears?

How long will you say that it is a "lifestyle choice" that leads to these deaths, when no different or discernible "lifestyle" was at the root of the hatred, terror, and brutality that actually led to these deaths?

How long will you seek your seat of power in a young man's coffin?

How long will you lose the evidence of your wrongs? (Update: video of the August 23, 2010, Anoka/Hennepin School Board Meeting, is now (9/12/10) available. See Tammy Aaberg at 15:20 here, and listen to subsequent explanation by the School Board Chair, and further testimony of abuse around the Neutrality policy.)

Consider, and answer me!

Answer for those who have fallen, and those who will continue to fall as long as your feet drag!

Answer for those families you have helped to tear apart, and those lives you have ended!

Answer for those careers you have threatened to end because your people have wanted to provide some small measure of support or solace!

Answer for those people who will hear the word "Jesus," and see a man with a gun!

Hear those, O God, who call out to you "Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, and my enemy will say, 'I have prevailed.'"

Hear those, Anoka/Hennepin School District, whose voices are still crying out in pain.

Hear those who want only to live their lives in peace.

Hear those who want only to live another day, to see another sun rise.

Hear those who want only to love those who are in their hearts to love.

It is time for you to choose:

Your policies, or your people.

Your ideas, or your youth.

Your bullies, or your innocent.

Choose wisely. God is watching.

Monday, August 23, 2010

ELCA Churchwide: One Year Later, and Still Waiting

Last Friday marked one year since last year's vote at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly on allowing open and partnered gay and lesbian persons to serve officially as pastors, without the fear of being witch-hunted out, put on trial, and defrocked ("derostered").

In reality, not a huge number of people or congregations have left the church, but although the laws of the ELCA have changed, the reality for gay and lesbian pastors, I'm guessing particularly for those awaiting their first calls like myself, is still "in process."

Today, Minnesota Public Radio's News-Q posted a series of reflections on what life is like in the ELCA now, at the One-year mark. It includes a brief piece on me, as I am three-and-a-half years into waiting for my first call, far longer than any of my seminary colleagues.

I will reflect more thoroughly in the next few days, but for now, here is the link to MPR's story. Each segment is worth a look: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/projects/2010/08/church-divided/new-welcome.shtml

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Repost Riff on "Bless Me Anyway"

Recently, I had the chance to watch the HBO production of Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” for the first time. It made me recall our Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus experience with some of Kushner’s most powerful words. This is a reposting from 2009, which also seems apt in these days that are hopefully gathering steam to overrule all of the divisive marriage laws, after Judge Vaughn Walker's masterly decision overturning Prop 8. Here it is:

So we in the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus have been singing a wonderful new setting by Michael Shaieb of some words by Tony Kushner from his play "Angels in America," centered around the phrase "bless me anyway." This phrase has affected me since we began singing it. It makes me think about those plucky figures in the Bible, Jacob and the Syrophoenecian woman, one in the Old Testament and one in the New, one going up against Godself, and the other against Jesus himself, who demand blessing in their beings from the deity who in some way created them, yet who have been told that they do not deserve such a blessing, or must fight to get it.

My life has been one in which I have both been the grateful and lucky recipient of unconditional love, from family and friends, as well as the need for years and years and years to defend my own being, sensitive, gay, or otherwise, against various people and institutions who have told me that I am deeply and existentially wrong. But, you know, bless me anyway, right?

The following are some words that came out after thinking about this phrase, "bless me anyway." This is yet a work in progress.

To the totality of the world's rejections:
The minor rejections of saying 'no' to liver and eggs;
the major rejections, hearing you say 'no' to me.

To the 'yous' who have told me who I am,
rather than letting me figure me out for myself.

Bless me anyway.

Even if you don't consider me worth it.
Even if my skin says "liar" to you.
Even if you think my dick should not go there.
Even if the folds of my skin obliterate
the smooth straight line
that you suppose would make me beautiful.

Bless me anyway.

What does a blessing cost you?

Does a blessing cost you your life?
Your job?
Your wife?

Does a blessing cost you your country?
Your place in the world?

Bless me anyway.

For I will have worth without it,
but with it,
we can love those we were meant to love,
in the open.
We can bless the skin that contains

our bones
our life
our blood,
if not our souls.

Bless me anyway.

It costs less than a tower,
less than a bomb,
less than a college education,
less even than an egg
from which life can come.

Bless me anyway.

But blessing is powerful.
Yes, blessing costs more than money,
more than position, power,
and all the water in the world.

Bless me anyway.

Bless the water that makes me more
than a pile of dust, more
than a pile of crap, more
than a pile of me that makes you weary,
that you wish would go away

Bless that shit machine
that embarrasses you.
Bless that $22.95 in basic elements,
not quite enough to buy Manhattan
four hundred and fifty years ago,
but enough to pay off the sum total
of a pile of humanity.

Bless me anyway.

More than the sum total,
more than the blue of my eyes,
more than the gnarled toenails,
the middling nipples,
the less-than-perfect hairline,
the zit on my left temple.

Bless me anyway.

The Jewish part of my heritage,
obscured by name-changes.
The happy sodomite that would do me, maybe.
The D-student wannabe.

Bless me anyway,
and I will bless you too.
I will bless your assumptions,
your experiences,
your attempts to reach out,
that get caught in your throat.

I will bless your struggle to live
in a world that kills us all,
that resolves as we do,
into a pile of minerals.

However it turns out,


I will bless you.