Rev. Stephen Sprinkle: The power of lament and fierce love

The Rev. Stephen Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School, flanked by other ministers, ended the protest with prayer. Other ministers attending included Chaplain Aaron Burk, the Rev. Mark Weathers of University Christian Church, the Rev. Heather Dunham of Universal Life Church, and the Rev. Russell Dalton with Brite Divinity School.

The Rev. Stephen Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School, flanked by other ministers, ended the protest with prayer. Other ministers attending included Chaplain Aaron Burk, the Rev. Mark Weathers of University Christian Church, the Rev. Heather Dunham of Universal Life Church, and the Rev. Russell Dalton with Brite Divinity School.

The following are remarks delivered by the Rev. Stephen Sprinkle during the rally outside Stedfast Baptist Church Sunday morning, June 26, as part of a demonstration to confront hate speech by Stedfast’s pastor, Donnie Romero.

Lament, Discover, and Repair
A message for the I AM DONE Stedfast Baptist Church Protest
Sansom Park, Texas, June 26, 2016
Stephen V. Sprinkle
Brite Divinity School

The Orlando massacre has forced America to stare into the abyss of our broken society. We have recoiled from what we have seen: not only the brutality of fear and loathing that took so many lives at the Pulse nightclub that night, but also the sickening complicity of a national culture that has set up the conditions for the slaughter of our people for generations.

Our feelings of remorse and loss are real and sharply painful; our burning anger is hot and real, as well.

But we cannot allow the abyss of race hatred, misogyny and heterosexist privilege to paralyze us with fear or anger — not again!

If others must continue the endless finger-pointing, let them. Not us, not again, not now!

We have a gaping hole in the American character to fix, and it will take all of us to do it, queer folk of faith, faith-free queer folk and allies alike. The spiritual resources that belong to American LGBTQ people are at hand, and we must discover how to use them to heal our broken hearts, our troubled minds, and to repair the ruins that yawn up at us from the abyss that bears so many names:

  • Orlando
  • Mother Emanuel A.M.E.
  • Sandy Hook Elementary
  • The Upstairs Lounge Inferno
  • Wisconsin Sikh Temple
  • Sixteenth Street Baptist Church
  • Aurora, Colorado, and
  • Virginia Tech, and more.

We must act according to the sources of our power, no matter what makes us afraid. The practice of lament clears the spiritual space that makes effective action possible.

Sadness can empower our souls as well as dis-empower them. We can erect shrines that tie us to the past, or we can discover the power to lament as a people until hope takes the place of despair.

Phyllis Trible, the ground-breaking author of Texts of Terror who told the stories of the wrong done to biblical women, has said that mourning alone changes little. But true change comes from insight, a change that can inspire individuals and even a whole generation to repentance.

She writes: “In other words, sad stories may yield new beginnings.”

God knows, we have sad stories, and plenty of them. What we must find is the courage to cry out in public acts of lament that change despair into hope.

Rabbi Denise Eger, lesbian and president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, shows us how to turn sorrow into a new kind of power for good:

Sister that I never held near,
Brother that I never embraced, our memory is almost lost:
The one we don’t talk about.
The loving one who never married.
The one for whom no Kaddish was said.
Your loneliness calls out to me:
I know of your struggles, we are not strangers,
And if my path is easier, I will not forget who walked it first.
We call you to mind, but did you not sometimes think of us,
Your children, lovers across the years,
Those who would follow and would think of you and bless your memory
And call you to mind?
With David and Jonathan, we will not forget you,
With Ruth and Naomi, we will not forget you,
In the name of God you are our sisters and our brothers, and we ask that you be remembered for peace.

When we cry out to God from the depths of our collective sorrow, as my friend, Dean Joretta Marshall, of Brite Divinity School says, we begin to discover new possibilities for memory, compassion, empathy, and vision.

As we collaborate publicly in acts of lament when we are overwhelmed, we discover new ways to collaborate together in “life-giving hope.”

Protests are important, but they do not capture the spiritual power of crying out together so that our despair may turn into hope, and inspiration gives our activism fresh ideas to address the venom the LGBTQ community faces, much of it inflicted in the name of religion.

Sorrow is not a destination. We need movements, not monuments or shrines, movements of “life-giving hope.” So, together, before all the world, with our enemies included, we cry out until despair begins to transform into something new.

We remember before God the tens of thousands of our LGBTQ family martyred in years gone by. We remember those who died in the Inquisition, the Middle Passage, the Witch Craze, the Holocaust, and the struggle for civil rights.

We refuse to forget those, driven to despair by a world that hated them and who they loved, who took their own lives rather than face any longer the intolerable.

And we cannot forget those who lived out their days lonely, repressed, and afraid to reach out for affection and comfort, too hurt to give or receive the love they craved.

To us, in the memories we share in our seasons of lament, they have all become the martyrs of God, signs that we must make the world better than they found it. In the name of love, we pray, “O God, remember the sacrifices of these martyrs, and help us to bring and end to hate and oppression of every kind!”

We say and we believe that “Love Wins!” But in the struggle to repair the world, we have learned that love must be ferocious to win the new world we seek for ourselves, our children, and for everyone.

The story of the struggle for our human rights has lessons to teach, and one of the undeniable lessons of our history is that LGBTQ people have never been “given” anything. The heterosexist society in which we live never surrenders its power willingly. Our freedom has had to be won.

If our great theme is LOVE, from the right to love the one we choose, or the love of country that inspired us to defy Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, to the love of human life itself because we are a people who are represented everywhere — in every group and race, and in every known social demographic from the beginning of recorded history — then we know from our own collective experience that love must be fierce in order for it to survive.

There is something divine in love like that, a divine imperative that will not be forestalled any longer, or postponed, or sidetracked. From the days of our forebears in the 19th century, we began to network across the boundaries of nations, to count the ever growing number of ourselves, and to realize that we were a powerful people united by a new sense of the possibilities of love.

Today, we are strengthened by amazing allies from every walk of life who understand that their future and ours are bound up with us in a contest to determine whether diversity and pluralism will prevail in our world, or whether patriarchal fear of immigrants, gender non-conformity, non-Caucasian people, and non-Judeo-Christian faiths — fears intensified by the rejection of the leadership gifts of women — will drag us backward.

Our most powerful ally in LGBTQ history, President Barack Obama, has shown us what a love with real backbone looks like. Like many of our allies, the president had to evolve in this thinking about what justice and equality for LGBTQ people called him to do. Once he got there, to the place of true equality and justice, he became our full-throated advocate.

His spiritual mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., taught him to face challenges with “the fierce urgency of now.” We LGBTQ people found that vision to resonate powerfully with our experiences of struggle beyond any counted cost, and, inspired by President Obama, we have recast Dr. King’s idea in our own way. We serve a vision inspired by “the fierce urgency of love.”

“The fierce urgency of love”:

  • Love that refuses to be anemic in the face of hard times.
  • Love that has a spine, and bows before no opponent.
  • Love that will not back down, and will not back up.
  • Love that knows how and when to get loud and be proud.
  • A love where Everybody is Somebody, and nobody is a nobody.

Our activism at its best is motivated by the fierce urgency of a love that will not permit churches, synagogues, and mosques to remain silent on the sidelines of the struggle for justice, for silence in the face of injustice is its own form of spiritual violence.

The fierce urgency of love compels us to give no free passes when religious leaders of any stripe breathe out venom and hatred toward marginalized people. That is why we oppose religious intolerance to the same degree we oppose political and economic harms done to LGBTQ people in North Texas and anywhere else.

We have learned the lessons of ferocious love: that hate speech from any pulpit or from any rostrum in a governmental chamber is the ammunition that kills and maims real people, as surely as any bullet. We cannot permit any leader to hijack religion and force it into the service of oppression of any kind any longer without our calling out such an outrage.

As Rev. Dr. Cody J. Sanders, the pastor of Old Cambridge Baptist Church near Harvard Yard, a proud gay man says:

“For LGBTQ people, the mechanisms of oppression have nearly always been waged first against our souls. But it never ends there. This spiritual violence has led to innumerable suicides, hate crime violence beyond what we know through the collected statistics, and the marginalization of LGBTQ people in the very institutions they should feel most at home: their families, their churches, and their communities.”

Sanders calls for spiritual reparations for the harm done to the souls of LGBTQ people, a fierce love of God and neighbor that seeks to heal the hurt and repair the broken world. Like Sanders, in the name of love, we must fiercely call for real and practical actions:

  • For LGBTQ homeless youth in our cities,
  • For effective ways to prevent LGBTQ suicides,
  • For funding for LGBTQ seminarians so that they can become faith leaders throughout America,
  • For the recruitment of qualified LGBTQ candidates to run for public office,
  • For literacy in LGBTQ life and history, and engagement between established cisgender and straight clergy with queer leaders in their communities, and especially
  • For churches and religion-based non-profits to stand up to their denominations and parent organizations when they participate in anti-LGBTQ discrimination by thought, deed, or silence.

Sanders concludes with the forthright demand of a community that knows how to stand tall and true, and has the courage to repair a broken world even in the face of spiritual opposition:

“Churches owe LGBTQ people a spiritual debt,” he says, “for the decades upon decades of violence against our souls. It’s time to start paying up.”

The Hebrew prophets sounded like that, didn’t they? That is an important dimension of the spiritual heritage of the LGBTQ human rights movement that was first born and nurtured in churches and synagogues in the pre-Stonewall era, and right up until this very day.

I work alongside lesbian, gay, and straight colleagues of courage at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, who like Cody Sanders, want to transform the world in which we live. So, with the whole Cloud of Witnesses, from the time of the Hebrew Prophets, Jesus of Nazareth, and the Prophet Muhammad, to the millions of LGBTQ people and our allies right here and right now, together with the Prophet Isaiah, we say:

Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of injustice,
    to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
    and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
    and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
    the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
    you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

Our greatest asset as a Queer/LGBT community, you see, lies in far more than our numbers, our economic strength, and our political allies. It lies in our spirituality of collaborating hope, hope forged in the furnace of our tests and trials, made powerful by the vision of a better world than we have ever known.

Our enemies are real. Their guns and their words spit fire and death. They misunderstand, sometimes with lethal consequences, who we are and what we contribute to the common world in which we all dwell.

But we know wherein our power truly lies, for as our Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde, taught us, “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

Rise up, then!

We LGBTQ people were never meant to settle into paralysis, depression and despair on the far side of the pit our adversaries dug for us. It is time to build a bridge across the abyss that swallowed up our Orlando sisters and brothers. Bring your energies, your tools, and your resolve. We have at hand the resources of a rich spirituality, and a fierce, divine love.

There is a world to repair.

 

—  Tammye Nash

#IAmDone stages rally against pastor’s hate speech in Fort Worth

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About 50 people organized by #IAmDone, a new direct action group created in the wake of the June 12 murders at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, staged a peaceful protest across the street from Steadfast Baptist Church in Sansom City on Sunday morning, June 26, speaking out against hateful comments made by the pastor of the church.

The main goal of Sunday’s protest, said organizer Karen McCronklin, was “to make a peaceful response to a hateful statement.”

On Thursday, June 16 — just five days after a gunman armed with an assault rifle murdered 49 men and women at Pulse, and injured more than 50 others — Steadfast Baptist Pastor Donnie Romero posted a video on YouTube, in which he defended hate speech by another homophobic preacher, Roger Jimenez of Sacramento, Calif., and said that the men and women killed in Orlando deserved to die.
“These 50 sodomites are all perverts and pedophiles,” Romero sad in his video. “They’re the scum of the earth and the earth is a better place now and I’ll take it a step further. … I’ll pray to God like I did this morning, and I will again tonight, that God will finish the job that that man started.”

That kind of hatefulness, said McCrocklin and others at the rally, cannot go unchallenged anymore.”When this kind of hate speech happens, we’re going to take a stand against it,” organizer Steve Atkinson said.

After #IAmDone first announced plans to protest outside Romero’s church, the pastor said publicly that he and others in his congregations carry guns and would not hesitate to use them to defend their church. That put the #IAmDone organizers, already on high alert for violence in the wake of Orlando, in an even more protective stance, and even more determined to meet Romero’s hate with peace.

Protest organizers worked with police in Fort Worth and Sansom Park to make sure the protest was as peaceful and safe as possible. The group then gathered in a parking lot about a block away from the church and marched with a police escort to a spot just across the Jacksoboro highway from the church.

Protestors sang “Jesus Loves Me” as they waved a rainbow flag and a transgender Pride flag, along with posters bearing messages of pride and love.

One poster bore photos of iconic Dallas couple Jack Evans and George Harris, and the words “This is what love looks like.” Evans and Harris were together more than 50s years, and were the first same-sex couple legally married in Dallas County last year. Evans died Friday after a lengthy illness.

In addition to chants and singing, McCrocklin read aloud the names of those killed in Orlando and the Rev. Stephen Sprinkle with Brite Divinity School at TCU led the group in prayer.

Among those attending the protest were Dale Blackwood and Clint Nelson, Sansom Park residents who have been together 17 years. The owners of the dry cleaners they use — Morenos — brought a flat of water for protestors, as did the owners of River Oaks Café. Alan Small, another Sansom Park resident, brought his three children to join the protest.

Another man, who identified himself as a former Baptist minister who is now an atheist, said he hadn’t known about the planned protest when he decided to come and protest Romero’s remarks. “I was really surprised to see all these people here,” he said. “I expected to be here by myself. But I am glad everyone came out.”

#IAmDone was created to be able to organize quickly to answer hate with peaceful direct action. Organizers said they expect to stay busy once the Texas Legislature convenes in January. Most of those involved — McCrocklin and her partner, Marla Custard, Atkinson and his husband, Ted Kincaid, spouses Patti Fink and Erin Moore, and others — are longtime activists in the LGBT community.

Check the #IAmDone Facebook page for information.

See photos of the rally below.

—  Tammye Nash

Wings lose to Indiana in Pride Night game

The WNBA’s Dallas Wings lost to the Indiana Fever 92-87 in the teams first Pride Night game on Saturday, June 25.

Warming up on the court pregame, both teams wore rainbow Orlando United shirts and the large screen in the center of the arena announced, “Wings Pridenight, Saturday 6/25 vs Indiana.”

Plenette Pierson, profiled in this week’s Dallas Voice, scored seven points. Karima Christmas racked up 21 points, Odyssey Sims 18 and Glory Johnson, back after a suspension, 15.

The season runs through Sept. 18 with eight more home games that are played at College Park Center on Center Street in Arlington on the UT Arlington campus and Dallas Wings games are a blast.

—  David Taffet

Share your proudest memories to honor the victims of Orlando

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#‎RestInPRIDE is a video campaign honoring our brothers and sisters whose lives were taken far too soon at LGBT nightclub, Pulse, in Orlando, FL. More info here- www.RestInPRIDE.org

Please get involved by uploading your own video to www.facebook.com/RestInPRIDE , and donating NOW to OneOrlando.Org

Song Download “LIGHT” by Brian Justin Crum, available on iTunes, with all proceeds to benefit the OneOrlando Fund.

Featuring: Rumer Willis, Greg Louganis, Candis Cayne, Bruce Vilanch Wilson Cruz, and 49 members and allies of the LGBT community sharing their memories in honor of those who sadly can’t make anymore of their own.

—  Tammye Nash

Cathedral of Hope calls for passage of gun safety laws

 

Cazares-Thomas,Neil

A statement from Cathedral of Hope:

Following yesterday’s devastating lack of action from the U.S. Senate, Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ joins national call to end gun violence and calls for comprehensive gun safety legislation.

Last weekend the LGBT community was the target of what is now known to be worst mass shooting in the history of the United States. The Rev. Neil G Cazares-Thomas, senior pastor said, “Enough is enough. It is beyond time to end gun violence and to implement a comprehensive gun safety laws.

Noting Monday’s (June 20) failure to act, Cazares-Thomas called upon all those who will vote later this year to remember this inaction; to call to account those who fail to serve the desires and wishes of the vast majority of Americans who continue to watch lawmakers fail us on a number of pressing issues in the United States.

“All people should be able to live without fear and this past weekend once again tore away the fabric our society and the sanctuaries that many minorities, including those that LGBT people have created for decades.  Too many people have paid the price for the inadequacy of those protections and for the inaction of Congress,” he said.

Reported LGBT homicides rose by 20 percent in the U.S. between 2014 and 2015, according to a study released this week by The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. Of the homicides reported last year, 62 percent were LGBT people of color.

The United Church of Christ has long advocated for sensible policies to end gun violence. The UCC 20th General Synod passed a resolution entitled “Violence in Our Society and World,” in which it recognized the complicated and interwoven layers at the root of violence.

That same General Synod also passed a resolution entitled “Guns and Violence,” inviting UCC members and congregations to advocate for legislation to strengthen licensing and registration of gun sales, strengthen regulations of gun dealers and ban semiautomatic assault weapons and high capacity ammunition clips.

As a faith community we once again come together in the aftermath of gun tragedies and urge lawmakers to pass laws that prevent gun violence. Tested by our grief, resolute in our faith we remain committed to continuing this drumbeat.

—  David Taffet

Pulse employee heads Houston Pride parade

Imran YousufImran Yousuf, a U.S. military veteran and bouncer at Pulse Nightclub, will be honorary grand marshal of the Houston Pride parade on June 25. His actions at Pulse saved dozens of lives.

The parade begins at sunset with a 30-foot by 20-foot Rainbow Flag inscribed with the names of the Orlando victims at the head of the parade.

Meet Yousuf at 1:30 p.m. on the Barefoot Wine® Stage in front of Houston City Hall.

Last year, the Houston Pride parade moved from the Montrose neighborhood to downtown. Held the night after the marriage-equality decision, the parade attracted more than half a million people.

The Houston Pride Festival runs noon-7 p.m. at McKinney and Smith streets.

The Houston Pride Parade starts at 8:30 p.m. and runs through about 11 p.m. The route begins at Lamar Street, goes north on Smith Street, to Walker Street, makes a right to Milam Street and then makes a left and continues to Jefferson Street. Bleachers, high rise parking garages that are open to viewers and sidewalks line the route and are open to attendees.

—  David Taffet

Our inaction is killing us!

Eddie Bernice JohnsonOur inaction is killing us! Our inaction has allowed mass shootings to become unacceptably commonplace in our country. We have a responsibility to do more to keep guns out of the wrong hands.

Our inaction in our communities, our in action in Congress, and our inaction as consumers has contributed to a gun culture that has claimed too many American lives. The unwillingness of the Republican majority to pass sensible gun legislation to protect the American people is literally killing us.

One of the largest mass shootings in American history recently took place in Orlando. This horrific incident brought an even bigger spotlight to the various shortfalls in our gun laws.  It is only prudent for Congress to pass the bipartisan “No Fly, No Buy” legislation.

The FBI and the Attorney General are not currently allowed to prevent suspected terrorists from buying lethal firearms and explosives. The “No Fly, No Buy” bill ends this loophole, giving the Department of Justice the ability to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of would-be terrorists.

This is a common sense first legislative step to plugging the different loopholes in our gun laws.

The legislation is based on proposals also supported by the Bush administration.  It gives the FBI the ability to prevent those suspected of having connections to terrorism from purchasing weapons. It has been proposed numerous times over the last few years, and each time Republicans, allied with such groups as the National Rifle Association, have fiercely fought against it.

We cannot let such loopholes remain in place as we turn a blind eye to the mass shootings of children, Bible study participants, moviegoers or college students.

Like President Obama, and most sensible Americans, I believe that “No Fly, No Buy” laws must pass, and background check loopholes must be closed. Yet these are only the first steps, the low-hanging fruit that we, here in Congress, can quickly fix.

These steps will go a long way, but these measures alone will not eliminate all possibilities of mass shootings. We must continue to implement common sense rules and checks to make sure that those people that purchase firearms are qualified to do so.

This means that people with histories of certain mental illness should be receiving treatment, not guns. Bans on assault weapons and military-style firearms should be re-instated. Laws governing ammunition purchases, extended magazines and gun show purchasing should all be explored.

Too many innocent American citizens are dying for us to not explore every option that would lead to a more peaceful future.

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat, was first elected to represent Texas’ 30th Congressional District in 1992, and has held that office ever since. Prior to serving in Congress, she served four years in the Texas House of Representatives and six years in the Texas Senate. She is a long-time ally of the LGBT community.

—  Tammye Nash

CAPE holds coffee sale for Orlando

CAPE, the city employees LGBT group, will take donations and sell coffee in the lobby of Dallas City Hall. all proceeds will be sent to Orlando.

CAPE

—  David Taffet

D.C. rally planned to ‘Disarm Hate’

disarm hate

I received word last night from Sister Lawna Jocqui, of the DFW Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence that organizers have gotten the necessary permits approved and are moving forward with a “Rally in Washington, D.C., to Disarm Hate.”

“So that the Orlando 49 did not die in vain, the LGBT community and its allies will rally in Washington to demand equal rights and sensible gun law reform,” reads the post announcing the event. “Join us.”

The rally is set for Saturday, Aug. 13, beginning at 11 a.m. on the National Mall in Washington.

Stay tuned for details as they become available.

—  Tammye Nash

UPDATE: Items from the memorial to Orlando at the Legacy of Love monument have been located

UPDATE: We have been notified that the items missing from the Orlando memorial at the Legacy of Love monument have been located and are safe and sound.

The items were collected by someone who was afraid it was going to rain and the items would be ruined. They delivered the items to Resource Center, according to posts and Facebook, Resource Center will deliver them to Alexandre’s. From there, the items will be divided, with some going to the GLBT Community Center in Orlando and some going to the LGBT Archives at UNT.

 

Within hours of news breaking about the mass murder that started inside Orlando’s Pulse nightclub shortly before 2 a.m. on Sunday, June 12, Dallas’ LGBT community and its allies began leaving messages of sorrow, comfort and support — along with flowers and other tokens — at the Legacy of Love monument.

0715 flash

The monument, located in the heart of the city’s gayborhood, at the intersection of Oak Lawn Avenue and Cedar Springs Road, is maintained by the Oak Lawn Committee. By the time the more than 1,000 participants in a vigil and march reached the monument on the evening of June 12, it was covered in flowers, posters and more — all left in memory of and in honor of the 49 people murdered and 53 others injured by the gunman who attacked Pulse.

The impromptu memorial grew throughout the week, with more flowers, more posters and more tokens of love, grief and solidarity were added to the site. This past weekend, members of Take Back Oak Lawn went over to to remove dead flowers and tidy up the memorial. They also worked with florists in the area, who donated $300-$400 worth of fresh flowers to replace the ones which had wilted and faded, according to TBOL member Cannon Brown.

TBOL had already made arrangements with Oak Lawn Committee to maintain the memorial, leaving the messages, posters, flowers and other tokens on the monument until funerals/memorials had been held for the 49 killed at Pulse, Brown said. At that time, all the posters, messages and tokens would be collected and either sent to Orlando to become part of a memorial there, or added to the LGBT archives at the University of North Texas in Denton, he added.

Brown also that TBOL had already collected three items left at the monument — a concrete statute of an angel, a glass cross and the Texas House of Representatives seal that had been on the flowers left by state Rep. Rafael Anchia’s office — and put them away for safekeeping until they can be sent either to Orlando or UNT.

However, Brown continued, when TBOL members went by on Sunday, they realized that all the items, except for the artificial flowers, had been removed from the monument.

“We talked to Michael Milliken with Oak Lawn Committee, and they didn’t do it,” he said. “We don’t believe it was done with any malicious intent, but we do want to get the items back. We want to save them all and have them be part of a memorial in Orlando or the archives at UNT.”

Brown said that the items taken from the monument could be left, anonymously, on the patio at Alexandre’s, 4026 Cedar Springs Road, if necessary. “We just want to get them back so we can make sure they are preserved,” he said.

—  Tammye Nash