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

‘A’ gay

Former Air Force captain Reichen Lehmkuhl has choice words about the Obama Administration and DADT, and the editing on his Logo series ‘The A List: New York’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

Reichen Lehmkuhl
THAT’S CAPTAIN QUEER TO YOU! Former Air Force captain Reichen Lehmkuhl is an avid skier, and spokesman for the inaugural Matthew Shepard Gay Ski Week in Crested Butte, Colo., next March.

SHOOT THE BUTTE
Dish at the ilume,
4123 Cedar Springs Road.
Nov. 5, 6–8 p.m. Free.
MatthewShepardGaySkiWeek.com.
Reichen will also host a
meet-and-greet at Woody’s,
4001 Cedar Springs Road,
Nov. 5 at 10 p.m.

…………………………..

If all you know about Reichen Lehmkuhl is what you see in reality shows — he won Season 4 of The Amazing Race, and is currently one of the “gay housewives” on Logo’s The A List: New York — then you’re missing a lot of what drives him.

Formerly an airman in the U.S. Air Force, Reichen (nobody uses his last name) is an outspoken advocate for gay rights, especially the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” And on this election week, he has some choice words for the Obama Administration.

“What Obama has done is disappoint all of his voters and really squandered away all of our affection,” Reichen says without hesitation, reflecting his displeasure that the president — after claiming a desire to repeal DADT, nevertheless appealed a California court’s ruling that the law was unconstitutional. “He made a choice he didn’t have to make — one of process over basic values. And he flat-out lied about what his values are. He said he thought all gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve, and when the opportunity was presented to him without any effort at all, he did not support it.”

Reichen knows that, especially within the gay community, his harsh words about the country’s top Democrat might not be popular. But he has too much invested in this issue to remain silent.

“I’m getting a lot of hate mail,” he admits. “I think [some] people are being apologists and are blinded because they are afraid of looking like they don’t support [Obama]. But for those of us on the front lines — and I am — it has just been awful. And I just won’t be an apologist for the president.  I won’t do it. You can’t apologize for people who swore to do what they say they will and don’t.”

He was especially confused when, immediately after the Pentagon announced it would accept openly gay military applicants, the Justice Department filed its appeal in the lawsuit, even though the deadline to appeal (if at all!) was more than a month away. Reichen says the decision was basely political before the midterm elections.

“The day the president appealed the decision, I was asked to go on MSNBC the next day, but I was so baffled I didn’t know what to say and I didn’t want to say something wrong, so I turned down the request.”

All this is a far cry from why Reichen will be in town this week: Promoting Shoot the Butte, a gay ski week starting next year in Crested Butte, Colo., for which Reichen is a spokesperson and attendee (he’s a huge snowbunny, and in fact a certified ski instructor). But the ski event is actually in conjunction with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, for which he is a strong supporter.

And even talk of Judy Shepard steers him back to politics. As a former servicemember, Reichen firmly believes that people have lost sight of the easiest way to advance gay rights: Just let the discharges stop.

“If you stop the discharges and let people come out and say, ‘I am a professional and you can’t assume I am not because I am gay’ … once that happened for 30, 60 days, it would be impossible to reverse the decision,” he says. “Just [this week], the administration ordered that DADT is back in effect so the discharges are continuing.”

He sighs. You can tell it’s something he internalizes and takes very personally.

“I’m really worried about what the president did to the support of so many gay people. He really just slapped us all in the face. He is political and doesn’t believe in equality for LGBT people. If this had been a race issue, would he have put politics before values? No, he wouldn’t. It shows how low he thinks of us as a community.”

You might not expect such political passion from someone best known for playing himself on TV, especially in light of the persona he projects on The A List. But even there, Reichen has his criticisms. When I say he comes off as a jerk on the show, he immediately says, “I hope you put that in your article.”

“I’ve tried to explain that even to the producers,” he says. “What you’re seeing is what they wanna show. They say I’m not gonna come off as a jerk as the later episodes air [but we’ll see]. You see me hit on a guy in a club, but what you don’t see is this guy is a friend of mine for 13 years. And the editing with Austin makes it look like we had some big, long relationship — we spent one day together [in Palm Springs]! I kept in touch with him by text, but that’s it. He says I have a small cock and am a bad cocksucker. The guy’s never seen my cock and I’ve never been near between his legs!”

The show also makes it look like his relationship with boyfriend Rodiney is doomed. He’s contractually forbidden from saying where they stand, although he does reveal, “I saw him this morning. And we love each other very much — I can say that much.” (Not so for Austin, whom he says he ignores now.)

What he does say is not wrong about the editing on the show is what we learned this past week: Reichen looks hot in a dress.

“This is a big secret, but I love to do drag!” he says. “I totally get why drag queens do what they do. I have so much fun, though I look better when I do my own makeup. I have complete anonymity [when I go out in drag] and people are scared of me.”

Scared of him? Sounds like that could be an advantage against an enemy in battle. And maybe one more reason Reichen can list to bring down “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 5, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

El Paso bishop counters priest’s anti-gay rant

Bishop Armando X. Ochoa

The Most Rev. Armando X. Ochoa, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of El Paso, penned an op-ed for Sunday’s El Paso Times that appeared to be a direct response to a homophobic rant by the Rev. Michael Rodriguez that was published in the same newspaper earlier this month.

Rodriguez, parish priest at San Juan Bautista Catholic Church in El Paso, compared gays to rapists and condemned LGBT allies to hell.

“First of all, I would like to state that previous columns claiming to speak for Catholic Doctrine were the personal opinions of individuals and do not necessarily express the belief of the Catholic Church,” Bishop Ochoa writes.

Ochoa went on to say that while the church opposes same-sex marriage, he advocates love and compassion for all — even us “homosexuals”:

“As Church we want to journey with everyone as they search for meaning in their lives. We believe that Christ offers this meaning. The use of harsh words of condemnation is not the approach Christ invites us to have toward one another. Intolerance closes the door to learning and deeper understanding of each other,” he writes. “Furthermore, it leads to divisiveness within the body of Christ. It is time for us to learn how to work with each other, even when and if we disagree. Too many people have suffered because of a profound lack of compassion and a perceived arrogant intolerance.”

—  John Wright