Jeffress manipulated community
I was alarmed to observe how adroitly the Rev. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, had succeeded in using LGBT issues once again to promote himself.
He did it before in Wichita Falls in his unsuccessful efforts to suppress gay and lesbian parenting books in the public library while he was pastor of the First Baptist Church of that city. I’m sure his high-profile campaign as head of the smaller church helped him immensely in his goal to become pastor of the Dallas church, which he referred to in a sermon as a divine prophecy that God first revealed to him during his days as a ministerial student.
His timing for the current controversy was perfect, immediately following the election of widely gay-favored President Barrack Obama and the passage of anti-gay amendments in California and Arkansas. He apparently had laid low on the issue since his appointment, waiting for just the right time to spring it on the city.
By protesting outside of the church, gay and lesbian activists took the bait and inadvertently helped draw more attention to his grandstanding during his Sunday sermon, "Gay is not OK."
Let me hasten to say I have no quarrels with LGBT activists for taking the stand they did. It was likely inevitable, given the public slap in the face his marquee outside of the church represented.
I’m not sure what effect the protests by LGBT activists will have on Dallas residents as a whole. Some undoubtedly will view it as an attack on the pastor’s and his congregants’ rights to their religious beliefs. But I believe that was part of the Rev. Jeffress’ design all along.
Former Dallas Voice staff writer
Protest could backfire
I would strongly caution all in our community to avoid protesting at churches. This has tremendous potential to backfire on the gay community in Dallas where we thankfully enjoy a high level of acceptance and tolerance.
The U.S. Constitution guarantees all of us, including the Baptists, freedom of religion. Whether we like it or not, the Rev. Jeffress has every right to preach what he wants. If we can protest at their churches, I ask what would your reaction be if they showed up to protest at Cathedral of Hope, Northaven Methodist or my church, St. Thomas the Apostle, all of which are very inclusive?
The Bible warns, "Be careful what you sow as you may reap what you did not expect."
Jeffress’ hate will backfire
It is very sad day for Dallas, Texas.
When one decides to come to Dallas and make it their home, one must also realize it is a city filled with hundreds and thousands of diverse individuals. With diversity comes difference. But most here in the city of Dallas learn to appreciate those differences that each individual or group has, and most don’t try to force our beliefs onto that individual or group.
The Rev. Robert Jeffress’ decision to speak hate against the LGBT community of Dallas is cruel and unChristian. Jesus spoke these words: "Do not judge and you shall not be judged." I have found in my many years of life that the most unChristian people in this world are the so-called Christians. Finger pointing, Bible thumping and hurtful words are not the way to bring Christ’s love and message to the masses. It will once again prove that certain individuals of a certain denomination believe they are superior to others. Rev. Jeffress is about to unleash a wave of hate that will forever become a diminishing light on his church and its congregation.
The LGBT community not only here in Dallas but around the world has suffered over and over again because of Christians’ belief that hate is a family value. Thousands of gay men, women and children around the world have been tormented, abused, cast out and killed because they are different. Does Rev. Jeffress really believe that those people should have been treated that way? I would have to say yes. If he did not, then he would do everything in his power to make sure that no human being would ever suffer at the hands of another.
But now, Rev. Jeffress will be forever known as a bully, beating up on a minority that has never ever done a thing to hurt him. Once he steps into that pulpit and opens his mouth against anyone who is different, he becomes equal to those who have tormented, abused and killed so many gay people.
He will bring pain on his own congregation. His actions will make all people believe that his congregation is also to blame for his ignorance and arrogance.
Today is a new day and tomorrow will also become a new day. They will be days filled with joy, excitement, jubilation and renewal and the LGBT community will be triumphant. Because we will continue to live our lives filled with love, understanding and the knowledge that there are many types of diverse individuals that make up this city of Dallas that we call home. We will continue to celebrate our differences each and every day we are alive. We will live to embrace and secure our right to be free and independent. No amount of hate, pain or cruelty can keep us from it, for all people will be equal in the eyes of God. I will pray for Rev. Jeffress and his congregation and hope they all come to know and embrace the real and true God, that formed them in his image.
Mark Alan Smith
Open letter to the First Baptist Church
It has come to my attention that your pastor plans an educational series including the sermon "Why Gay is Not Okay."
I am deeply concerned about teachings along these lines because, as a gay man, I have endured endless oppression at the hands of public opinion. I have been called names, threatened and discriminated against by people who were otherwise accepting of me until they found out my sexual orientation. Their knowledge of me did not fundamentally change who I was, but it did dramatically alter life.
Most gay people do not stand out in a crowd, nor wish to. But please do not be mislead to think that we are unhappy or suffering because we are not like you. In fact, after dealing with the trauma, born out of religious dogma, of accepting ourselves and our sexual orientation, we live bountiful, productive, happy lives.
Therefore, while listening to your pastor’s sermon, please do not lose sight of the fact that he is talking about your family members, your neighbors, your co- workers, and 3 to 10 percent of the people of the land who are good, law abiding, and worthy people, just as you are.
Please ask yourself whether the pastor is putting forth truly worthy reasons that are thoroughly rational. Consider that should you choose to follow doctrine that makes being gay or living a full gay life a sin you have decreased those of us who only wish to live a full, open, happy life with those like ourselves.
As you listen to your pastor, we gays ask only that you keep in mind that, although we may not be your cup of tea, we hurt no one by being who we are. We ask from you the same respect you would give a Jew, a Buddhist or anyone of a different race, color, or creed, or with a fundamentally different life’s philosophy and value system, and grant us our right to exist openly and at peace in America.
Welcoming the next generation of activists
Sunday’s protest at First Baptist Church of Dallas was remarkable on a couple of levels. It was organized quickly, conducted peacefully and respectfully, and represented the breadth and depth of our community. It was multiethnic, multiracial, and the participants ranged in age from young to not-as-young-as they-used-to-be.
The G, the L, the B, the T, and the A were holding signs and speaking truth. In short, it was a beautiful thing to behold.
I wandered through the crowd, singing, chanting, taking pictures and handing out doughnut holes to my fellow protestors. Some of the folks I knew, but there were many others I did not. That was one of the most heartening aspects of the experience. Bonds were made and a community established in the time it took to sing "Jesus Loves Me."
There was a mom marching alongside her lesbian daughter. There was a man wearing a priest’s stole with rainbow stripes. A sign equated the struggle for marriage equality with the fight against the "Jim Crow" laws of the segregation era. One of the people who led the group in song and motivation is a well-known drag performer in Dallas — an echo to a time when drag queens rose up to fight back against our community’s oppression in New York City’s Greenwich Village.
But a story, and the image that sticks with me days later, was unexpected. There was a man and a woman who happened upon our protest as they were walking back from the Dallas Museum of Art to their hotel. They were from out of town, Philadelphia I think, and were attending a conference. The couple stopped to find out what was happening, showed their support and thanked us for marching.
You never know when you will find an ally. They may be walking past you right now.
It’s been more than 25 years — my freshman year of college, to be exact — since I first read Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s "Letter from Birmingham Jail." After the "No on Prop 8" protests started in California last week, I dug up my dog-eared anthology of American literature to reread it.
King’s words from 45 years ago ring as true today as the day they were written: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."
The protests in California, the one last weekend and this weekend at First Baptist Dallas, and the nationwide "Join the Impact" marches this weekend in Dallas and elsewhere are a direct link to the thoughts and words of Dr. King. They are the spiritual and social justice descendants of the rioters at Stonewall, the activists of ACT-UP and the crowds who took to the streets protesting the implementation of "Don’t ask, don’t tell" and rallying on behalf of the victims of hate crimes.
As someone who’s been around a while, seen it, reported on it, and marched in it, I’m thrilled to see my younger GLBT brothers and sisters taking it to the streets. Your energy and passion, combined with your ability to harness new technologies for a greater good, are inspirational. Welcome to the revolution. We’re glad you are here.
Yes, the environment here in Texas is challenging. There are no state law protections for GLBT individuals. And, emboldened by last week’s vote, those who would challenge and marginalize this community will continue to attack our lives, our family and our dignity.
But it’s not impossible. Things aren’t like they used to be. You can go into a bar and not be arrested. In the city of Dallas, it’s illegal to discriminate against you at work, in housing, and in access to a place based on your sexual identity or gender expression.
But what happens when the march ends? What do you do next? Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote, "If you wanted to change the world, who should you begin with: yourself or others?"
My hope and wish is that you will stay involved. Use these connections you are making to build and strengthen our community. Volunteer, whether it’s at Resource Center of Dallas or elsewhere, advocate, share your story and live openly, freely and proudly.
I, for one, will be standing right beside you.
Strategic Communications Director
Resource Center of Dallas
These letters appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 14, 2008.