Christian clergy will spew hatred in Washington DC on Monday. Their fury has been aroused by the new Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Venomous, hate-filled language is an odd thing for religious folk to spend time on. Imagine that energy being used to promote compassion, love, mercy, justice or feeding the hungry. Gay and lesbian people are the target of this vitriol. Religiously motivated disdain and hatred are not pretty. Or spiritual. Why this bizarre confluence of hate toward LGBT people?
The organizers of the Rally for Religious Freedom say they want to raise “alarm” over the new hate crimes law. They claim that the new legislation infringes on their religious right to rail against lesbian and gay people. They say the legislation prevents them from proclaiming the “whole counsel of God”. They believe that the “whole counsel of God” includes stirring up disdain and hatred towards LGBT people.
Outside the Justice Department building in DC these religious leaders hope to be arrested for their proclamation against gay and lesbian Americans. This coalition, which includes the Christian Anti Defamation Commission and Liberty Council, is a more polished iteration of Fred Phelps’ one gospel tune of protesting gays wherever he imagines us to be found, including the burial of US soldiers.
I’ve been the target of Fred Phelps’ protests. The level of venom and hatred is so shocking to most people that it invites a lot of personal reflection. Most Americans are decent folks who do not want to be associated with such naked hatred. Fred Phelps, like the organizers of Monday’s protests, actually becomes ambassadors of a more tolerant, diverse America.
The spit-fire from Monday’s protests is also aimed at the Obama administration. One of the organizers, Gary Cass, believes that Obama’s support of the legislation was to “pay back militant homosexual activists who raised millions of dollars for his campaign and worked to get him elected.” Cass says that this is all part of Obama’s “radical, anti-Christian agenda”.
The legislation is named in honor of Matthew Shepard who was murdered in Wyoming for being gay. The new law makes acts of violence against LGBT people illegal. Is it radical to legislate to ensure that no young woman or man is put to death as Matthew Shepard was? Is it radical to enshrine in our laws that every human life is sacred and should be free of the threat of violent acts?
The Judeo-Christian scriptures have very little to say about homosexuality as we know it. They do have a lot to say about loving our neighbor as ourselves. They speak at length about mercy, justice and love for all. The defining mark of these sacred texts is love of others. It is the mirror image of loving God. This is the “whole counsel” of spirituality! It is a way of seeking dignity and freedom for all people.
Hate is a consuming business. The wisdom of most spiritual traditions is about compassion. Spirituality is about becoming fully alive. The path of becoming fully alive is sabotaged by the energy needed to keep fueling hatred.
I’ll happily cast my lot with Martin Luther King Jr., the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Bono, Thich Nhat Hahn and the other spiritual bearers of love and compassion. Our human story is about seeking goodness in one another.
Not far from Monday’s protesters is a small park with a statue of Mahatma Gandhi. In the park is his mantra – “My life is my message”. Love and compassion for Gandhi were never known in tearing down or inciting hatreds. The good spiritual energy is known when we detach from disdain and hatred and cast our lot with love, compassion and justice. For all.
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