Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A truth worth sharing this Christmas

I did not write what is posted below.  I caught it off of Pam's House Blend, but it was originally from Faith In America Blog.  It is a very powerful piece, and I wanted to share it here.


A truth worth sharing this Christmas

The harm experienced by two Florida and South Carolina families this Christmas because of religion-based bigotry against gay and lesbian individuals is very real.

Many evangelical Christians this year may have to admit to their children that they've been perpetrating an "untruth."  Perhaps they are made just a smidgen more uncomfortable by the fact that they believe truth was embodied in Christ - who according to their religious teachings was a person born different than any other human being.

So at a time when many Christians are cautioned not to forget the "reason behind the season," they are confronted with the fact that they must close the door on a part of their son's or daughter's childhood by telling them that certain stories about the partially eaten cookies, the hand-scrawled note left behind and the soot smeared on the floor were really not true.

But the young lives of a future generation will go on albeit perhaps  a bit more cynical and somewhat dejected from discovering such a truth. 

For the families of Pat and Lynn Mulder of Auburndale, Fla., and Elke Kennedy and Jim Parker of Greenville, S.C., the lives of their two children will not be going on. The day-to-day gifts of joy they gave their parents, siblings and friends ended with their deaths - and no amount of perception will make their future lives and their gifts to those around them a reality.

Pat and Lynn's son Ryan Skipper, who was killed in April 2007, and Elke and Jim's son Sean Kennedy, who was killed in May 2007, will not be with their families next week to celebrate the season - and there is an underlying reason which we as Americans must confront honestly and truthfully.

Both young men died after attacks that have been reported as acts of violence against them because they were born different. The difference was that they enjoyed dating, being around, spending time with, and bonding emotionally with men instead of women. That difference, according to certain religious and religious/political factions in America, condemns them as sinners, unclean, undeserving of the same rights that other Americans enjoy and unworthy of God's love.

Gays and lesbian individuals are not the only Americans who have been delegated as second-class citizens at the hand of misguided religious teaching. African-Americans were once labeled as a cursed lot. And with the "Adam first, Eve second" thinking, women also have been denied equality in this country as many people believed they stood more in favor with their God by standing opposed to full equality for women.

The majority of religious-minded people look back on those periods in history and realize that religious teachings were misused and misconstrued to deny African-Americans and women full equality.

Yet many Americans today fail to see the history of religion-based bigotry against gay and lesbian citizens and the harm that it causes to millions of wonderful people simply because they are different.

The families of Ryan Skipper and Sean Kennedy this Christmas are experiencing the harm that comes when a social climate of rejection and condemnation is allowed to flourish because a society accepts bigotry against gay and lesbians as religious truth. While those families experienced the physical violence that is promoted by such a climate of rejection and condemnation, millions of of other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans and their family and friends experience this violence and in other forms as well - emotional, psychological and spiritual violence.

In South Carolina, where Sean Kennedy parents will spend Christmas, the state in 2006 voted to ban gay marriage and the opposition from Christian churches in that state was instrumental in writing such discrimination into South Carolina's constitution - which coincidentally still banned interracial marriages until just a few years ago.

Next year in Florida, where Ryan Skipper's parents reside, a ban on gay marriage is being proposed for that state's constitution and no doubt religious and religious/political groups will lead that effort.

While denying gay and lesbian citizens the right to marry is but one of the many rights they as American citizens are not allowed to enjoy, it is an issue that clearly defines how a majority religious belief is used to justify legal discrimination against a minority.

Let's hope that people across this nation will pause for a moment to recognize that misusing religious teachings to justify discrimination against gay and lesbian citizens must be recognized just as wrong today as it has been in the past.

Great social injustices of the past have fallen faint when America's heart and soul bestows its most wondrous gift – equality.

Sharing that truth will most assuredly enrich the lives of future generations.

Brent Childers
Executive Director
Faith In America

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