speaking up for and defending others as a spiritual exercise; day 11 of Ramadan / A fierce kind of love; my recap of Chicago Pride 2015 and the I’m Sorry Campaign 2015

I am going to make this a “two birds with one stone” post, so here it goes…

Speaking up and defending others is a spiritual exercise, because sometimes in life others need your voice / be an alternative voice / be a buffer / be an ally, and yesterday friends and acquaintances of The Marin Foundation were that to the LGBTQ Community by way of the I’m Sorry Campaign. But it so happened that I and several others positioned ourselves at the end of the parade, in front of the protesters.
Now I don’t have much to say about the protesters because they’re a verbally violent and virulent bunch of people who have a convoluted understanding of God and God’s love for humanity. God’s out to get you, and if you’re a member of the LGBTQ Community or even an ally, the wrath of God is and will be poured out upon you and they want to make damn sure that you know it; they make this known by their numerous signs and bullhorns, and it gets loud and hurtful quick.

My friends, and acquaintances, and The Marin Foundation, do what we can to build bridges between the LGBTQ Community and primarily the church community. Not that they’re mutually exclusive but there’s been an unfortunate marginalization that has been occurring by the church to a certain extent for quite some time now. We want to be agents of change, agents of a fierce love that does what it can to bring forth restoration and reconciliation.
I am encouraged by the I’m Sorry Campaign and what it is capable of doing. I am also encouraged by it being seen at different Pride Parades around the country as well as outside; it’s amazing to see what God is doing through others who want to bring about reconciliation and restoration unto the LGBTQ Community who has been marginalized by the church. We’re getting better all the time in doing so!

So for the second year running I positioned myself in front of the protesters. My friend L* and I found ourselves there a bit earlier, we actually beat the protesters there!

and with some time to spare we took care of a few errands before heading back to our spot in front of where the protesters would be. Having one under my belt I felt less nervous about being there. This year we actually had more space than we did last year, and so while we were right there in the front of the protesters it didn’t feel like their bullhorns were positioned directly right behind our heads.

As more protesters got settled into their places, more friends and acquaintances made their way to the spot as well. My friend D* and I did what we could to be a buffer directly behind them, we were at the barricades that kept them in (or the rest of us out). I did feel the verbal heat from what they had to say, but my anxiety and fear was not present. God was with us and he wasn’t going to let us down, and it was the presence of God that sustained us that day because love is louder than hate, and we got to be a part of that fierce love of God that loves everyone.

Given that we were at the end of the parade, and so it started rolling by our location close to two and a half hours. Immediately our presence was known by those in the parade to be one of God’s love and one that wasn’t like that of the protesters who were behind of us. Hugs and thank-you’s were extended by those in the parade to us, for they could see that we were willing to be there and to be present as a counter-protest to the protesters. Most of those in the parade had moments of “getting it”; getting what we we were saying and what we stood for, and it was the a very beautiful thing to bear witness to time and time again.

Our love is fierce to the extent that we couldn’t hate the protesters, for we also vocalized our love for them as well! I am reminded of a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King who said; “hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” And it’s true! If we were to lower ourselves to the level of the protesters than in a way we’d be no better than they are. But by loving them as God loves us, we are able to transcend that fear and that hate and overcome it despite the odds.
The protesters were dismayed and a bit angry at our verbalization of our love for them:

But despite the fact they didn’t feel the same way, it was the right thing to do and we meant it. It is the fierce love God that propels us forward to go out into the world and do big things, it is the fierce love of God that sustains us and helps us become a voice of change, it’s the fierce love of God that will see each and everyone of us to completion. May our actions and words in defending those who have been hurt and marginalized by the church become a balm of healing. To God be the glory!

That is why speaking up for and defending others were my key words on the 11th day of Ramadan. May God, the defender and protector of the wounded, continually bring about change in our lives and in the lives of others, so that we can be instruments of his peace, so that we can be instruments of his fierce love that is lavished greatly upon all of us every day.

Salaam Alakium and Happy Pride y’all!
~Nathanael~

Happy Spirit Day 2014

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Today is Spirit Day, which is a day to stand in support and solidarity of the LGBTQ Community. I too stand in solidarity for the LGBTQ Community, as a follower of Christ / Red Letter Christian I am compelled to.

One of the verses in the Bible that speaks to me about love is found in John 13:34-35, in which Jesus said; “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Here’s the thing I’ve found to be true in all situations pertaining to people that are either similar to me or different than me:

Love requires proximity.

If I have choose to avoid certain individuals, if I keep my distance, how then will the love of God flow out of me to those individuals?

If you’re going to be intentional with someone, you should want to BE with them, you should want to hear their stories, you should want to break bread with them and so on…because in doing so, the differences that you might have thought existed have now become less than before. You connect with them on a human level and you realize not only their humanity but yours as well.

I’m not saying you ought to do what I do, think what I think, or even believe what I believe. All I’m saying is get to know people in proximity and allow your posture to be one of grace and humility. Otherwise you’ll find that you’re there but not there, and others are bound to pick up on this fortified wall you’ve surrounded yourself with and they might not be receptive to you.

***
It is for these reasons I choose to model my life after Christ’s; for this I choose to position Jesus at the center of my life, in him I find a purpose to live, in him I have found ways to “go and do likewise”. And what does that look like? Well I would hope that it is in alignment with Micah 6:8, that I “act justly…love mercy and…walk humbly with…God.”
For this I choose to be an ally to a community that has been marginalized and picked on by the church. For this I choose to be outspoken for those who sometimes do not have a voice. For this I cannot keep quiet. For this I choose to love instead of hate or show indifference or apathy.

May my love be louder,
Nathanael

My recap of the Los Angeles Pride Parade/I’m Sorry Campaign LA

I was greatly encouraged that by word of mouth, a Facebook group page, 12 of us came together to be a part of the very first I’m Sorry Campaign in Los Angeles. While I am used to interacting with those around at Chicago Pride, our interactions with those with whom we offered I’m-Sorry’s were mostly with those directly in the parade. And yet it was received very well.

I can’t even begin to count the hugs, kisses, the weeping in my shoulder blade and thank-you’s and I-forgive-you’s I personally received. I saw some people within the parade who were moved and blew kisses, but thankfully a good deal of those I met and interacted with were on the street level. This is encouraging to me because it meant there was a connection made, a symbiotic relationship briefly established…this occurred after the majority of the people in the parade as well as those who came to watch passed up a group of protestors, a group of people waving their filthy flag under the guise of God, essentially a turn-or-burn message.

But still, my fellow I’m Sorry Campaigners received hugs and kisses, heard stories, engaged with those in the parade as well as those around them. Since I led this up and only met 1 individual for this event, I was slightly nervous as to how they’d engage with those in the parade and those around. They did a splendid job and I know that if they get together next year they will do fine on their own.

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Usually one Kingdom of God moment sticks out to me after the fact of Pride parades, be it someone I interacted within the parade directly or someone in nearby proximity who saw what we were about. None specifically sticks out because there was an abundance of love and reconciliation and restoration! 🙂 I enjoyed that people were receptive to our cards, read it, got it and looked back to smile/wave/blown kisses/mouthed thank-you’s. That’s how it sometimes plays out in the Kingdom Of God, it takes a bit of time to process what’s really going on and receive it completely and fully.
God delights in our “getting it” and even our extending it to others. Love, grace, mercy, peace, reconciliation and restoration point to what God is doing and even what God has invited us along to do and participate in. God’s presence is already there, but God invites us and coaxes us to be a part of Kingdom work.

Thanks be to God for inviting me to be a part of adventures like this one. I’m not running on a “spiritual high” right now but rather a relaxed state of being and dwelling and thinking over what God has done, a posture of thankfulness to do events like this one. I have seen the hands of God in all of this, and I am grateful to have played a part in it.

~Nathanael~

I’m Sorry Campaign – Memphis Pride 2013

So the first leg of my vacation to Tennessee was marked by coming into town for camping, but also Memphis Pride. My friend Jimmy kept me in the loop when I was still in IL, when I was still in limbo with my job pertaining to vacation…but I  made it out to Memphis, and have been enjoying it ever since.

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Okay, so yes I come from Illinois and I have attended 4 Pride Parades in Chicago, so the lag and less of a parade was a little quirky…but still, there were windows of opportunities all around us! People did in fact want to know what we were sorry about, and we talked about the I’m Sorry Campaign on individual levels but also on behalf of Christianity as a whole.

After the parade we all manned a booth in Robert R. Church Park in Memphis, more people talked to us but there were also different churches present who were happy for our presence, happy that (I assume) we were quite the diverse group; both members of the LGBT community, but also allies. I walked around the park checking out the different churches and talking to the people who represented them, it was very encouraging to hear their stories and their church’s goals to promote equality, affirmation, and acceptance as a church community. One church, a Roman Catholic church, has been on quite the journey of being accepting and affirming; after a parishioner’s son committed suicide the bishop, J. Terry Steib, became vocal within his church community but also the community of Memphis. More information about what he said can be found here. It was very encouraging to hear what was said by those who align themselves with Roman Catholicism, because at times I don’t hear their voice all that much or their voices get vocalized by someone else.

It was different from the Chicago Pride Parade, but it was a worthwhile experience. I kind of enjoyed it because it wasn’t such a large parade, which provided more intimacy in putting out there what we were sorry for. Yes I like Chicago for the largeness of it (number 3 in the country, woo!) and for the stop-go foot traffic that gives more opportunities to talk about what I’m sorry about.

I don’t know what next year holds for me in reference to Memphis Pride, but if I can I will be back! 🙂

~Nathanael~

Recap of the Chicago Pride Parade/I’m Sorry Campaign 2013

This past Sunday marked the 4th time I was involved with the I’m Sorry Campaign and engaged in tangibly coming forward in a posture of I’m Sorry for the way the Christian community has treated the LGBT community.

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For starters, I got there late, oy do I hate being late. Weaving through the crowds from Wellington to the IHOP off of Halstead took 1.5 hours! It was during my time getting to our spot that that I found out that a bunch of I’m Sorry Campaigners went to where there were protesters, but the ministry of the I’m Sorry Campaign proceeded in both locations (I will write more about this later).

It was during the parade I asked several individuals about what they were sorry about. Some of the responses were about the stereotypes they had drawn up at one time about individuals of the LGBT Community, some of it was expressions of being sorry for the way some Christians treated individuals of the LGBT Community, and some of it was just their opportunity to be fully come out for themselves and some were there in support of their daughter (I love L*’s parents!)

Another blessing of the day was that one of my fellow PFLAGers was out there too! I met some of his family who he already shared with them what the I’m Sorry Campaign was all about. It is a blessing to see people I care for and love with those they also care for and love, it’s one of my favorite parts of aiding to perfect shalom.

It was only after the parade that people were asking me what I was sorry about, and for me I’m truly sorry for the way Christians have treated the LGBT Community inasmuch to say that God doesn’t love them, whether by directly communicating that or by living a life that makes God out to be a heteronormative diety…God’s not, he’s much bigger than labels we affix to him.
I think the one definitive moment of talking to some lesbians and gay men about what I’m sorry about when I was congratulated by a lesbian who said; “I’m an atheist, but thank God for what you’re doing!” Thanks be to God for moments like these, where the person who doesn’t believe in God’s existence gives thanks to God…amazing, truly amazing.

***

I’m glad to have gone, and sadly my mother was going to join me for the I’m Sorry Campaign but got lost in the crowds (found her though! :-)) yet as I’ve heard her perspective she had a good time in her own right and 2 gay men helped her have a good time and they truly took care of my mother in a Christlike way, yay for the kindness of strangers.

In addition to going to Chicago Pride this year it is my intention to go to Memphis Pride; I’ve got some vacation time and I want to use it, and I love Tennesee, and the LGBT Community…why not? 🙂

I will end my recap in this. Love wins, and love covers a multitude of sins. When we love as Christ loved us, when we posture ourselves into making ourselves servants instead of leaders, taking time to BE with others, God is with us no matter where we might be. I can’t say I’ve gotten out of my comfort zone inasmuch as I have expanded my comfort zone. By loving and taking time to BE and listen and talk and share the love of Christ any shred of timidity I might have goes out the window. God truly gives me clarity to seek out after those whose stories need to be heard, I want to be a vessel for God’s kingdom and glory to be and to love.

~Nathanael~

Recap of the I’m Sorry Campaign/Gay Pride Parade in Chicago 2012

This was the first year I commuted primarily by “L” to the Gay Pride Parade in Chicago. Blue Line Oak Park to Jackson, to Red Line Addison. It was very obviously very crowded, but there was a sense of bonhomie in the air for different reasons, and my reason was to join up with The Marin Foundation and their I’m Sorry Campaign for a third year.

It was my intention this year to be the eyes, heart, and ears of Jesus; eyes to watch people to see their reaction that an I’m Sorry t-shirt has and draw them into conversation about what we’re sorry about, a heart of love to those around us and whomever I was in contact with, and ears to hear people share their stories with me. I would have to say this approach was personally successful, thanks be to God. 🙂

Due to a route change/extension the parade went the other way and we were half a block from the IHOP in Boystown, but the many I’m Sorry shirts made it noticeable where we were going to be. I said my hi’s and met some new people, I asked them from their perspective why they were sorry and for some it was because of once being homophobic to a point where the individual was worried that being Gay was transmittable, for another it was engaging the LGBT Community in a tangible and dynamic way of love, for another his journey was very similar to mine; years of struggling to figure out a personal stance as to if being a follower of Christ is compatible with being LGBT…
I liked that conversation, because the struggle to get away from “well my mom says/my father says/my pastor says” blanket statements is a worthy one, and I recognize in my life that if a person struggles through this and still thinks the same way at the end of the struggle, I’m more accepting of someone who does the legwork to come up with their own thoughts & ideas on this topic.

Then there was P* and D*; two guys, two moments of expressing I’m sorry for the way Christians have treated the LGBT community, two moments where they got what we were about, two good times and God times. I don’t want to give away their story simply because this moment was ours and ours alone.
I will say that it is a breath of fresh air in these God moments where there’s restoration and reconciliation, where perfect shalom seems closer and closer to coming to fruition. Itwill happen, and I want to do my part to be a part of it!

I had work in the evening so I left earlier, but in a way it was a blessing in disguise particularly with standstill foot traffic. People noticed the shirt and thought at first I was saying I’m Sorry for the pushing to move forward as it was very much the bottle neck at times, but I allowed those inquires to be addressed, to say I’m sorry for the way some Christians have treated the LGBT community by telling them that God doesn’t love them when in fact he does! It was received well, and I thank God for those moments when I couldn’t move forward because of the crowds.

All in all it was a good Pride Parade in Chicago yesterday. I wish I could have stayed there longer but I had responsibilities and I was blessed to have five hours off. The work of Andrew Marin and The Marin Foundation and for those who associate with them isn’t a well worn path, it has been traversed by a few but there’s still work to be done. I take the matters of building bridges seriously, intentionally and incarnationally, that is to say I want to be in the same setting where my ministry is.
Jesus exemplified incarnational ministry best, he was with the people, he lived with them, he ate with them, he went through good times and bad times with them. If I call myself a follower of Christ I feel obligated out of love and discipleship to “go and do likewise”. The Gay Pride Parade comes only once a year, but there are still ways for me to engage and build bridges, and you know what? I’m going to do that! 🙂

P.S.  brought my camera, but alas I didn’t take any photos 😦 Oh well, here are some from our event through the lens of others;

I wasn’t angry or pissed, just rather hot…pay no attention to me, I’m better behind the camera lens than in front of it!

Be blessed and continue to bless others,
Nathanael

2 things I’m contemplating prior to the Gay Pride Parade in Chicago

There are some individuals who say that you should compartmentalize and keep the sacred from the secular and vice versa. Yet the way I look at it, all truth is God’s truth and there doesn’t need to be a split up of the so-called sacred and secular.

As I prep for the Gay Pride Parade in Chicago I’m contemplating two things, one’s a well known prayer and one’s a cover song by Todd Rungren’s band Utopia called Love is theAnswer.

Saint Francis of Assisi’s prayer:

Utopia/Todd Rundgren – Love is the Answer

I’m excited for a third year to build bridges between the Christian community and the LGBT community (not that there’s no overlap but there needs to be more) at the Gay Pride Parade in Chicago. God spoke to me prior to the event 3 years ago and I listened and I acted, and so I prepare to leave my house to answer the call once again.

It must be done, building bridges, because this is an issue the church cannot sweep under the carpet and hope nobody notices…well I notice it and the way we act the LGBT community knows it as well. These things take time, but I have faith in God and my generation that we will take care of the matter to truly take the steps of restoration and reconciliation between the Christian community and the LGBT community. Yet since it is in it’s early stages those individuals who go forward now, such as Andrew Marin and The Marin Foundation, are pioneers; they’re blazing a trail that hasn’t been traversed and they’re going on faith and trusting in God because the outcome hasn’t been determined yet…but God will see them and I to completion, I have faith in him to do that 🙂

John 13:34 – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

~Nathanael~