Friday, February 22, 2008

The Week in Review: A Candle in Your Heart

Another Friday, and as I look back on the week, once again, I've compiled a small compendium of online articles that have lit candles in my heart. It's often a struggle to keep hope alive in a world that conspires to convince us change is not possible.

It's a struggle to find and speak truth in a world in which the truth is systemically distorted by media, by powers and principalities, by those whose self-interest is served by manipulating the truth.

In such a world, the voices of witnesses such as these help keep the flame lit, when turbulent winds and dark days threaten to extinguish it:

First, I’m grateful for Rev. Andy Burnette’s 20 Feb. posting at Bilerico project entitled “Thanks for Your Concern about My Children” ( Rev. Burnette addresses those who express concern about his daughter, given his decision to speak out courageously on behalf of LGBT rights as a minister in Indiana. He is grateful for those who are concerned about his daughter’s safety. He notes, though, that it is his very concern about his children and their future that compels him to speak out about prejudice wherever it is found:

“I can’t imagine having to admit that, while I believe prejudice is wrong, I didn’t say anything because I was afraid. That admission would teach her that self-preservation is more important than truth and justice, that it’s OK to be quiet about discrimination when speaking up could be uncomfortable. . . .May we have the courage to do what is right, for ourselves, and for the next generation.”

Rev. Burnette’s article includes the quotation from Martin Luther King, Jr., about shallow understanding and lukewarm acceptance that I highlight my own 20 Feb. blog entry.

And today, when a memorial service for Lawrence King is to be held in Westminster Presbyterian Church in Port Hueneme, CA, I want to highlight Sara Whitman’s comments in that same 20 Feb. blog entry. Whitman notes that the national media “has done a complete pass on the [Lawrence King] story.” She decries the silence of the major presidential candidates about Lawrence King’s murder. Sara Whitman’s Huffington Post article was picked up this week on the Towleroad blog at

Given that silence, I was heartened to read in Pam’s House Blend blog this week an article entitled “Parents Confront Officials about Lawrence King Shooting” (;jsessionid=4A0DDC165E766AC3D00D71957B29D080?diaryId=4558). Pam notes that the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) is keeping track of local vigils organized to remember Lawrence King, and has issued a list of four concrete steps schools can take to confront school bullying of LGBT children.

I’m delighted to hear that GLSEN is calling on schools to address the issue of school bullying of LGBT youth, in light of Lawrence King’s murder. Yet, as I explain in my blog entry of 15 February, the mention of GLSEN reminds me of the role the churches and their institutions play in suppressing open discussion of homophobia and homophobic violence.

As that blog entry explains, in my last position leading faculty at a church-based institution noted for its commitment to civic engagement, I was severely punished by my supervisor for even mentioning GLSEN as a resource for faculty. This supervisor, who is the mother of a gay son and has worked in a leadership position in the United Methodist church, found the mere mention of GLSEN in a church-based school a way of “putting my lifestyle in the face of colleagues.”

The church has a long, long way to go. It is time to break silence.

Since I have chided the presidential candidates this week for their silence about Lawrence King’s shooting, I would like to give credit to Barack Obama for speaking out in Houston against the scapegoating of gay people. Mr. Obama stated, "I know how easy it is for politicians to turn us on each other, to use immigrants or gay people or folks who aren't like us as scapegoats for what they do." A link to a video of this speech is at

And finally, I would like to give credit to one courageous church leader—in a church not known for its welcome of LGBT people—for daring to remind us that the rejection of LGBT folks by churches undermines the churches’ claim to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.

In a homily he gave last Sunday on the second Sunday of Lent, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton stated:

"When I think of how our church acts sometimes, and maybe without our knowing it, any one of us as an individual within the church, when we look at the way of Jesus and look at the way we act, we fall short. I think that within the church, Jesus was always the compassionate, welcoming, loving, forgiving messenger of God. In our church, we still reject people because of who they are. I've said this before and I repeat it today; we fail people who are of homosexual orientation. Most of them have not felt, and still do not feel, truly welcome, truly accepted as who they are and the person that God has made them."

Bishop Gumbleton’s sermon may be found at the blog café of National Catholic Reporter ( Courageous advocates like Bishop Gumbleton deserve to be supported and celebrated by the LGBT community. All too often, they suffer reprisal at the hands of their own church when they speak out—and this has happened to Bishop Gumbleton.

Those whose words I’m citing in this post have been candles to my heart this week, as I continue to ponder the senseless murder of LGBT youth in our land, along with the silence of the churches (and media) about this national social cancer. As the Persian mystic poet Rumi reminds us in his poem “Candle in the Heart,” there is a candle in our hearts ready to be kindled. And it is love that kindles that candle—love that comes to us of its own accord, love that should be accepted and celebrated as it is, not excused or explained away, when it kindles candles in our heart. The love that fills human hearts, changes lives, and pours forth into the lives of others in endless creativity is a precious resource for all of society. Those who love should never be chastised for their loving. They should certainly not be maimed or killed because they love. As Rumi urges:

“Remind those who tell you otherwise that


comes to you of its own accord,

and the yearning for it

cannot be learned in any school.”

In memoriam, Lawrence King (1993-2008). Love never fails . . . .

1 comment:

colkoch said...

Hope the code errors in your post don't indicate bad things for your computer.

Rev. Burnette's comment that self preservation is more important than truth or justice, is the heart of a host of social ills. The fear involved with survival and ago preservation is exactly what Jesus was trying to teach us to overcome. Until one can do that, one can't enter the Kingdom.