SPIRITUALITY: From loving ‘the sinner’ to loving your sister

Evangelist Jay Lowder of Wichita Falls makes waves by preaching acceptance of gays

Lowder.Jay

ACCEPTING NOT JUDGING | Jay Lowder has gotten a lot of heat for his position that people should worry about their own sins rather than the sins of others. (Photo courtesy Jay Lowder Harvest Ministries)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

WICHITA FALLS — Jay Lowder believes that no matter what, you should love and accept people. He calls the idea of loving the sinner and hating the sin hypocritical.

Lowder is an unlikely person to have those views. He is president and founder of Jay Lowder Harvest Ministries

Evangelistic Association based in Wichita Falls and is married with three children.

Lowder knows his views — recently featured on ABC News — are out of the mainstream of evangelicals.

“I take some heat for it, and I really don’t care,” he said.

When he was 18, he said he got a call from a friend.

“Hey, Jay, there’s something you need to know,” Lowder said the caller told him. “You’re sister’s gay.”

He said that news was devastating for someone raised as he was.

Soon after receiving the news, he was driving. He said he saw his sister headed in the other direction. He made a U-turn and caught up with her.

“Harsh words were spoken,” he said. “I told her she was selfish and I hated her.”

She told him it was her life, and their relationship was severed.

“I became a Christian at 21,” Lowder said. “The moment I became a Christian, I no longer hated her.”
But his acceptance of his sister wasn’t qualified by the “love the sinner” philosophy common among fellow evangelicals.

He told her he was a Christian, that he had never accepted Christ before and was sorry about the way he acted toward her. He admitted he had been judgmental and rude.

“I wanted to be close,” he said. “I loved her.”

Lowder said Jesus didn’t denigrate people. He said Jesus didn’t say to Mary Magdalene, “You’re a whore.”

“He made her heart the issue,” Lowder said.

In describing himself as an evangelist, he called it “the height of insanity” to be driving people away from Christ.

“The purpose of what I do is not to alienate people,” he said. “It’s to know and have a relationship with Christ.”

He still holds his convictions, he said, but there’s a way to approach people. People who cling to the “love the sinner, hate the sin” line use colloquialisms that sound spiritual, he said — but they use them to hate people.

But he said that Jesus taught, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” So rather than focus on other people’s sins, he said, religious people should focus on their own sins.

“Pull the speck out of your own eye before you pull it out of anyone else’s,” he said. “If I tell a lie to my wife, that’s a sin. Breaking a commandment is breaking a

Jay Lowder

commandment.”

He believes the commandments regarding homosexuality are no more or less important than any others. And he believes there’s a line between trying to rectify a situation and pointing fingers.

“I could go to a heroine addiction clinic and tell them not to do it,” he said. “But I’ve never struggled with it.”

He used the blunt analogy but then makes it clear he doesn’t think his sister has some sort of addiction. He just wants to make it clear that he’s not going to be judgmental.

He said that a Christian’s primary responsibility is to love other people.

“Don’t go around bragging about loving God if you don’t love other people,” he said.

Which brings him back to talking about his sister who lives in Dallas.

Last Thanksgiving, he said that she came to Wichita Falls for Thanksgiving, for the first time in at least 15 years. He said the family reunion was such a happy event that they begged her to come back to spend Christmas with them.

“My sister was back,” he said. “My dad was at the kitchen table, and that was the first time I saw him cry.”

Today, he only describes his sister in glowing terms.

“You won’t find a better person in the city of Dallas than my sister,” he said.

And he said their relationship remains close.

“If something happened to her, I’d be the first one she’d call,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 20, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

The ‘fundamental’ issues at hand

When those on the religious right attack, their hatred is born of fear and frustration. But we have to remember not to react in kind

HARDY HABERMAN  |  Flagging Left

This weekend I watched some clips of right-wing evangelicals on YouTube. Aside from raising my blood pressure a few notches, it gave me an insight into the reason these folks are so angry — and more specifically, why they are so angry at LGBT people.

Imagine you are a fundamentalist. That means you say you believe that everything in the Bible is literally true — the great flood, Jonah and the big fish, Noah and the ark, Adam and Eve, all the miracles, etc.

It sounds comforting at first, to believe in a world where everything is in God’s control and our fates are decided. But if everything in the Bible is “literally” true, then we are stuck with a paradox: The God who Jesus depicts as loving and filled with grace, becomes an almost psychopathic killer if all the stories of the Old Testament are true.

Suddenly you are standing on shaky ground.

Furthermore, to really believe the literal interpretation of the Bible, you have to live in a cognitive dissonance, where in your daily life you confront a reality that does not match what you read in the “literal” Bible.

That takes a lot of work to keep things straight and to keep reality from seeping in to what you say you believe.

I think this is why fundamentalists as a group always seem so angry. They are exhausted and frustrated.

Imagine how difficult it would be to read a story about God creating the world in six days while at the same time seeing scientific evidence that creation took billions of years.

You begin denying science and slide down the slope into creating justification for why there are creatures like dinosaurs which never are described in the Bible. You come up with things like, “The fossils were put on Earth to test our faith.”

Frustrating, isn’t it?

What’s more you begin to suspect that the real problem is that some people, yourself not included, are making God mad, and if the Old Testament is to be taken literally, you don’t want to do that!

Who are these people? Well, they are anyone different from you, obviously, and LGBT people fall smack in the middle of that group.

It really is little wonder we as LGBTs are being scapegoated by these fundamentalist folk. They are seeking a way to explain away the problems of their world, and since we are so obviously different from them, we must be the problem.

That’s why they are so adamant about “defending marriage.” If we LGBT people start getting married and have our relationships accepted as
mainstream, it chips away not at their heterosexual marriages, but at their lock on being favored by God.

Remember: They believe only a small group of righteous people will be saved when the grand finale comes. In the mind of these people there has to be a group who is “worthy” and a group who is “unworthy.” If we start paring down the qualifications of what makes a person worthy, it lessens their chances of being in that group.

Now before you go wondering if I am some kind of atheist heathen, I assure you I am not. I consider myself a follower of the teachings of Jesus, and that makes me a Christian. And that’s the real point of this whole discussion.

As a gay man who is Christian, I am a double threat to the fundamentalist right-wing. I am stripping away another of their “get into heaven free” cards, and this makes them even more angry.

My problem as a Christian is remembering Jesus’ most important teaching — that whole “love thy neighbor” thing. It’s really hard to do when your neighbor would just as soon see you disappear.

But the alternative is to live with the same anger and frustration as the fundamentalists, and that just doesn’t seem to be a very good alternative.

So what I have resolved to do is this: The next time I am angered by someone thumping their Bible on TV and ranting about the “evil homosexuals” who are leading the country to ruin, I will see through their hatred and recognize the scared and vulnerable person underneath who is fighting against the wind of justice.

I will try to remember that their struggle is ultimately futile. I will try to find some love in my heart for them.

Then, I will promptly get online and donate money to a worthy cause that works for real justice for LGBT people and make that donation in their name. Kind of poetic justice isn’t it?

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at http://DungeonDiary.Blogspot.com.

—  John Wright

Don’t let story of David Kato’s murder die

HARDY HABERMAN  |  Flagging Left

A few months ago when I wrote about the draconian anti-homosexual laws being passed in Uganda, I had an ominous feeling that it would be the beginning of a very real nightmare for LGBT people in that African country.

Unfortunately, that is coming to pass.

LGBT activist David Kato was murdered, not by a sniper from a distance, but by an individual who brutally beat him to death with a hammer.

A Ugandan publication had published his photo and that of other LGBT activists on the front page; above the picture were the words “Hang Them.”

Already, the authorities in Uganda are trying to cloud the issue with talk of “thieves and gangs.” But to call his death anything but the hate crime it was is ludicrous.

Beating someone to death with a hammer is up close and personal and comes from a hate-filled rage.

Much of that rage has been fueled by clergy in Uganda. One man in particular — Martin Ssempa, a man with the dubious title of “reverend.”

If you don’t think you know him, you most likely do. Ssempa was the speaker in the YouTube video that went viral last year. In that clip he is describing how gay men “eat the pooh-pooh.”

Though to us it might have seemed comical and worthy of ridicule, in Uganda, Ssempa’s words are taken seriously.

Ssempa is a well-known preacher in Uganda, and he has a lot of well-funded U.S. ties. You see, anti-gay evangelists who can’t find an audience for their hate here in this country have fanned out to proselytize in countries where their message might have more traction.

Rick Warren, the author of “A Purpose Driven Life,” was one of Ssempa’s supporters. Though he now distances himself from the Uganda situation, funds from Warren’s church helped fuel this mess. U.S. evangelicals and the ex-gay movement are big players in Ssempa’s push.

Ssempa has wrapped his hate in the banner of AIDS activism. But don’t be fooled. His brand of activism led him to burn cases of condoms “in Jesus’ name” and to sponsor gatherings with U.S. speakers like Scott Lively, who blames homosexuals for the Nazi Holocaust.

Other U.S. interlopers include Don Schmierer, who is on the board of Exodus International and who spoke at a conference in Kampala in March, 2009, where he endorsed the anti-homosexual laws that caused such an international stir.

Now as David Kato is being laid to rest the controversy continues.

A pastor speaking at his funeral lashed out at homosexuality, prompting a strong reaction from Kato’s friends. Scuffles broke out before the event was over.

Things turned so ugly that villagers refused to bury his body, and it was up to his friends to carry the coffin to the grave and complete the burial themselves.
And all this just adds fuel to the fires in Uganda.

It is unfortunate that those fires have been stoked by citizens of the U.S. who traveled to Uganda to inflame passions there. Worse, this crime is going to fall from the front pages as events in Egypt take center stage in news from Africa. Besides, the story is somewhat old news, and falls well outside the attention span of U.S. news audiences.

That’s why it is up to the LGBT media to keep this urgent human rights story alive.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

Evangelicals picket gay couple’s home simply because they’re gay

Lovely.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright