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

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

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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

‘Perform or provide’

DADT repeal gives progressive chaplains a chance to counter evangelical clergy in the military

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CATCH-ALL CHAPLAIN | Chaplain Chris Antal (Lt.) attended the meeting of the Forum on Military Chaplaincy at Cathedral of Hope in October. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com
When a soldier recently came to Chaplain Chris Antal, a lieutenant in the Army National Guard in New York and a Unitarian Universalist minister, and asked if he’d pray with her even though she was a pagan, he said he replied, “Of course I will, but you’ll have to show me how.”

Several weeks later, when he saw her again, she told him that the day she had come to visit him, she had hit rock bottom. He had, she told him, saved her life that day.

But Antal said he was only doing his job — helping any soldier who comes to him.

“I’ve earned the nickname, the Catch-all Chaplain,” he said, explaining that it means he takes everyone the other chaplains don’t want to deal with.

Carpenter.Dodd

Capt. Tom Carpenter (ret.) and Col. Paul Dodd (ret.)

Being there to help a soldier in need is what it’s all about for a military chaplain, said Col. Paul Dodd, a retired chaplain who now lives in Austin.

“The duty of a military chaplain is to perform or provide,” said Dodd, adding that he once sponsored an Islamic conference.

Dodd said that no chaplain can perform every service needed by every member of the military. But if a chaplain can’t perform the service requested, he or she must provide that soldier with a referral to someone else who can.

Antal said that chaplains who enlisted knew what they were getting into — to some extent. But none of them really expected the repeal of the military’s anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. And for many, that repeal was a game changer.

In October, a group of active and retired chaplains and military personnel and other people of faith, such as the Rev. Steve Sprinkle from Brite Divinity

School in Fort Worth, met at the Interfaith Peace Chapel at Cathedral of Hope to begin looking at ways of addressing the issues that arose for military chaplains around DADT repeal.

Dave Guy Gainer said The Forum on Military Chaplaincy is not exactly new. It formed in 2005 as a project of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and worked under the radar until DADT was repealed.

Sprinkle said people in the Pentagon, up through Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, knew about their work and considered their statements throughout the DADT repeal process.

And now, with repeal complete, the group met to “come out.” At their meeting in Dallas, forum members considered ways to become an independent organization helping to ensure newly out service members receive the pastoral care they need while serving in the military.

Susan Gore, principle of The Mentor Group and editor of the book Coming Out In Faith, moderated the Dallas conference. She said the group started with several retired military officers “who wanted to push back against the far-right skew.”

Sprinkle has been part of the forum for four years and said he was recruited to participate because of his work on hate crimes.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sprinkle said, more and more members of the Chaplain Corps have come from just one school — Liberty

University, founded by far-right evangelical Jerry Falwell. Today, Sprinkle estimated, one-third of military chaplains come from Liberty University.

“They instituted a program that barely meets minimum requirements,” he said of the evangelical school. “It’s an online course.”

And, Sprinkle said, Liberty University’s goal is to take control of the Chaplain Corps and use the military as a pool for religious recruits.

“This is fertile ground to bring people to Jesus at taxpayer expense,” said Tom Carpenter, a retired Marine captain and one of the forum’s founders.

“I’ve heard stories of them holding the hand of someone who’s dying and trying to bring them to Jesus.”

And although such actions contradict military policy, no one in the corps has been disciplined or dismissed for it.

“They give chaplains a lot of leeway,” Carpenter said.

Gainer said the military is looking for well-rounded ministers who bring experience with them to the military.

According to the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School in Fort Jackson, S.C., candidates must be endorsed by their denomination or faith group and be “sensitive to religious pluralism and able to provide for the free exercise of religion by all military personnel, their family members and civilians who work for the Army.”

But Sprinkle said that Liberty University is transparent about its goals, and those goals do not line up.

“They’re not committed to pluralism or serving all the troops,” he said.

Gainer said that the greatest opposition to repealing DADT came from the Chaplain Corps because military chaplains answer to two groups — the military and their denomination. Those chaplains that didn’t adhere to a strict stance of maintaining the ban on gays and lesbians were threatened with losing their accreditation from their endorsing religious body — and with it their livelihood and their pensions.

But that contradicts the stated goals of the Chaplain Corps.

“Someone has to say, ‘Either you comply and serve all the troops all the time or get out,’” Sprinkle said.

Gore said that one of the goals of the newly public forum is to “rebalance the Chaplain Corps by bringing in more mainstream faiths.” She said that for many who come from more liberal traditions, questions of what’s a just war make it hard to serve in the military. Antal, for example, is one of just four Unitarian Universalists in the Chaplain Corps.

During its push for repeal of DADT, members
said, the forum had several successes working behind the scenes.

Despite the assumption of confidentiality between parishioner and clergy, that wasn’t always the case between gay soldier and chaplain. Dodd said that a number of discharges under DADT occurred after a soldier talked to a chaplain and the chaplain turned them in.

In fact, he wrote a white paper on the practice. After he submitted it, the military tightened up on chaplain confidentiality, Dodd said.

Carpenter, an attorney, wrote an amicus brief for the Log Cabin Republicans’ lawsuit against DADT. The court found in favor of declaring DADT unconstitutional, but Congress repealed the law before the decision could be enforced.

Carpenter said that the repeal allows gays and lesbians to serve with no protection. The legal decision, had it not been vacated upon repeal, would have allowed gays and lesbians to serve equally.

Now that DADT is gone, the forum is examining how to ensure LGB personnel receive the same services as other troops from chaplains.

Dodd said that right-wing chaplains charge that allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military will force them to act in ways that go against their beliefs. Some have said they would be required to perform same-sex weddings.

Dodd called that ridiculous. Chaplains are never asked to perform duties that go against their religious beliefs, he said.

“I turned down weddings,” he said. “An officer came to me who wasn’t divorced.”

He said the officer tried to pull strings and force the issue, but Dodd wasn’t going to discuss marrying someone who was still married to someone else.

“But we’re insisting chaplains have the authority, if it’s in keeping with their faith, to marry same-sex couples,” he said.

Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, the repeal provides no family benefits. For some issues, Dodd and Carpenter suggested work-arounds.

Issuing ID cards would be extremely helpful, especially to same-sex couples with children, Carpenter said, noting that “That way either parent could get on base to get a child to the hospital.”

In another example, joint assignments can be offered at the discretion of a commanding officer, and married couples are often assigned together when they both qualify for positions that are available at the same base. Same-sex couples could be given the same priority.

As the forum looks ahead, rebalancing the Chaplain Corps with members from a more diverse background to reflect the membership of the military is a priority.

“And we need to take care of our trans brothers and sisters,” Carpenter said.

The repeal of DADT did not address any transgender issues and does not allow transgender men or women to serve in the military.

Gainer believes representatives of the forum need to sit down with far-right members of the Chaplain Corps and agree to disagree. He said that before the repeal of DADT, they talked to people at Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. While both groups testified against the repeal, they met with some success.

“The president of the VFW in Pflugerville said it was the right thing to do,” Gainer said.

That dialogue, he believed, would help chaplains perform or at least provide a useful referral, rather than doing more damage to a soldier seeking help.

Gore thought that the focus of discussion should be with the majority of chaplains “who want to do a good job and are part of the moveable middle.”

“We have to convince administrators and educators in divinity schools to encourage some of their best and brightest to serve,” Sprinkle said. “So many schools dropped what they were doing during the Vietnam era.”

Antal thinks that gays and lesbians will gain more acceptance as they tell their stories in non-confrontational settings and others see “their identity as professional service members is primary.”

While the work of the forum will concentrate on helping LGB military personnel, creating a more diverse Chaplain Corps may help a majority of service members. Recent polls show that a majority of troops find the chaplaincy irrelevant.

Sprinkle called the work of the forum a gift from the LGBT community to the nation.

“You wouldn’t think we’d be the ones opening the doors so that all troops will be served with dignity, integrity and respect,” he said.

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

 

—  Kevin Thomas

Christian hatemonger denies existence of gays

Linda Harvey

OK, this is the kind of right wing hatemongering that causes my head to hurt more than it usually does listening to rabid, anti-gay activists who use their religion in precisely the way that would make Jesus weep.

Linda Harvey, pictured, founder of Mission America, a conservative Christian activist group, denies the very existence of gay people … which seems odd, since she has devoted so much energy to vocalizing her opposition to gay people.

You can read the story here, but the essence seems to be: Gay people don’t exist, only gay activities. So, there’s a gay lifestyle, but it is only practiced by straight people who have lost their way. I guess. It doesn’t make much sense. It would be like saying, “Linda Harvey isn’t an ignorant bigot, she just practices ignorant bigoted behavior.”

Nah, she’s a human soul hole. Her bigotry goes directly to who she is: Sad, misguided, anti-Christian and mean.

Oh, and she’s really ugly.

I’m not cruel. I’m just practicing the cruel lifestyle.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Sally Kern has a new website … or does she?

Sally Kern has a new website — SallyKern.com, also known as “Sally Kern: Bashing Gays for Jesus.”

Well, maybe it’s not hers. Maybe one of our readers just happened to notice that Kern had never registered her name as a domain, and neither had anyone else. Steve Rider deals in domain names regularly with his company, Steve’s Web Hosting (where you can also learn about the Gay Agenda).

“I have taken on Sally as a pet project,” said Rider, who describes himself as “a retired elderly homo with no respect for the Sanctity of Bigotry.”

Rider said when Kern first made national news with her “gays are more dangerous than Islam or terrorists” comment, “I discovered that she had never registered a dot-com domain in her name, so I took care of that for her.”

He has lots of fun stuff on the website, including a video from when Ellen Degeneres tried to call Kern on the air. And Wanda Sykes explaining she hopes Kern moves up in government so that she can pull the troops out of Iraq and attack West Hollywood.

In Kern’s new book, Stoning Sally Kern, she accuses the media of taking her out of context. Well, Ryder’s website allows you to hear her comments in their entirety. For example, let her tell you in her own words that blacks are in prison because they don’t want to work hard.

Oh, and in case you want more information about the book, Rider has registered Stoning Sally Kern as well.

In an interview this week with the conservative Tulsa Beacon, Kern compares same-sex marriage to marrying animals. The article describes Degeneres as “an avowed lesbian.”

But Kern explains that she doesn’t hate anyone. Everyone should have equal rights — it’s just that legislators should put biblical law before the Constitution.

“I am always being accused of hating homosexuals. I don’t hate anyone. This isn’t a matter of hating someone or trying to deny them their equal rights. All American citizens have equal rights under our Constitution. This is trying to get acceptance for a behavior that is specifically mentioned in God’s Word that is wrong.”

Kern’s book will be available on July 5. We’ve requested a review copy from the publisher.

—  David Taffet

COH’s Jo Hudson on Osama bin Laden’s death: ‘Does violence ever create less violence?’

The Rev. Jo Hudson

“While I believe that the death of bin Laden may offer us the feeling that justice has been done and the hope that we may be seeing the end of the ‘War on Terror,’ I also ponder what it means to ‘celebrate’ the death of another person, even if that person has created untold violence and death. As I watched the celebrations in the streets of our country I couldn’t help wonder, ‘Does violence ever create less violence?’

“So, is there a way we can be patriotic without being nationalistic; a way to understand the consequences bin Laden experienced for inciting violence without reveling in his killing? In our anger and hurt we often believe revenge is the best response. Perhaps that is because it helps us to feel safer or makes us feel like our country is superior. However, Jesus was clear when he said, ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies …’ And while it may make you uncomfortable to think about loving someone like bin Laden or forgiving him, that is exactly what Jesus did. He made people uncomfortable by proclaiming a different way, a way of unconditional forgiveness and radical love, even forgiving those who executed him.”

— The Rev. Jo Hudson, senior pastor at the Cathedral of Hope, in a Pastoral Reflection sent to members this morning. Read the article in its entirety here.

—  John Wright

Who Would Jesus Stab?

(Via – Jesus Needs New PR)

Joe. My. God.

—  David Taffet

David Bromstad Is On His Knees For Jesus

OH SNAP — David Bromstad, host of HGTV's Color Splash, releases a makeshift Christmas card.


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Sermon: “Jesus Was HIV-Positive”

Pastor Xola Skosana x390 (fair, no credit) | ADVOCATE.COMA pastor in South Africa has shocked churchgoers with a series of sermons claiming Jesus was HIV-positive.   
Advocate.com: Daily News

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Flattop Jesus divides religious community

Photograph: Lech Muszynski/EPA

First can I just say that the sight of Jesus missing the top slice of his head is grotesque and disturbing?  Of course once the statue is deployed, Christ’s brain case won’t be visible from below to the new source of revenue (pilgrims) that the Catholic priest Sylwester Zawadzki unabashedly hopes to lure to the deformed statue.  Pilgrims will be drawn, he hopes, to this particular statue in the Polish town of Swiebodzin because it will be the new tallest statue of Jesus found anywhere on Earth, outstripping the famous Cristo Redentor, in Rio de Janiero by 6 meters.

I don’t find religious statuary particularly interesting, especially when constructed from composites rather than artfully rendered from wood or stone, but I do find this story noteworthy because this project is not uniformly supported by local Catholics.

The project has split Polish society with some expressing pride, others derision, and with many practising Catholics calling for it to be abandoned. …

Waldemar Roszczuk, editor of the local newspaper Gazeta Swiebodzinska, has been leading a campaign against the structure, which has been compared to the type of communist-era icons that once commanded squares and public places.

“It’s a monster of a statue which has nothing to do with Christian teaching,” he said. “It’s making us a laughing stock in the whole country.”

The project has also been fraught with safety problems, charges of shoddy preparation of the foundation said to doom the statue within 20 years, and disturbing reports of convict labor organized by Zawadzki and a local prison warden.

This story so beautifully illustrates how religiosity or respect for people who are religious doesn’t necessitate withholding legitimate criticism of religious-based endeavors.  It is encouraging to see that the people of Swiebodzin, Catholics among them, understand this and aren’t afraid to express their opinions.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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Hate gets expensive in El Paso

El Paso

El Paso for Jesus has forced a special election in the West Texas city. No, El Paso for Jesus did not get Jesus on the ballot; they got domestic partnership benefits on the ballot, according to the El Paso Times.

And like any good Christian group, they’re against health care. At least they’re against it for people who aren’t married heterosexuals.

The cost of putting the issue on the ballot is more than the cost of the benefits. Currently, the benefits are offered to the unmarried partners of city employees, both gay and straight.

The election will cost $131,000. The benefits to 19 couples that registered to receive them cost $28,770.

And now, to top it all off, the thoughtful folks at El Paso for Jesus are offering to marry at no charge any of the straight couples. No word on how tasteful the weddings will be, but hell, a free wedding is a free wedding. What else do you need? And for the gay couples, they have offered to turn them straight. The head of the group called it “get free of homosexuality.” He said that he has found that “homosexuals can be set free.” He did not point to an example of his successful counseling or explain how gays are now in captivity.

The way the ballot initiative is worded, domestic partner benefits could be offered only to “city employees and their legal spouse and dependent children.” Retirees would be excluded from benefits. They could even lose their pensions. Oops.

Of course, El Paso for Jesus claims this wasn’t their intent. But the city attorney said that’s what’s on the ballot and if that’s what’s voted into law, the city will have no alternative but to uphold the law. So groups like the police and retired firefighters aren’t too keen on this ballot initiative.

Domestic partner benefits were first debated after an incident in El Paso in 2009 where five men were removed from a fast food taco restaurant after two of them kissed.

—  David Taffet