Sunday, January 25, 2015

LGBT Rights in Nashville: regression and progress

By now many of us have heard that Davidson Academy, a private, Christian Nashville school, denied admission to a couple’s children - just because their parents are gay. But, this is not a battle between the Christian and LGBT communities.  These two communities have always overlapped. 

Chris Sanders, the Executive Director of the Tennessee Equality Project says about the family of Brian Copeland and Greg Bullard: "Every family has dreams of a great education for their children, so we can all understand how heartbreaking Brian and Greg's story is.  Their courage and grace give us models for starting the kinds of conversations that need to happen in Tennessee.  I believe, whether they like it or not, Davidson Academy is going to have that conversation internally and with the public now.”

This school says that they “strongly believe in a strict interpretation of the Scriptures regarding the institution of marriage.” I would imagine that this school doesn’t investigate the heterosexual behavior of their staff and the families of students but perhaps they do.

Didn’t Jesus say, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these?”  Did he add, just not  the children of a certain sort of couple?

This couple just wants their children to have a Christian education and as Copeland has stated: “discrimination and inequality [are] alive and well. ” On January 23rd, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) condemned the actions of Davidson Academy. Ellen Kahn, the Director of HRC’s Foundation’s Children, Youth and Families Program said that the school “contradicted its own Christian values with this decision - discrimination is not a Christian value.” But, there is a Christian value about loving each other. 

Hold onto that thought while exploring some other news of the past week here in Nashville. Nashville Public Radio reported on January 21, 2015:  “Oral Histories Reveal Decades of Closeted LBGT Lives in Nashville.”  (Link) “For the past 7 years Nashville’s Brooks Fund has collected the stories of what it was to be homosexual in Middle Tennessee before 1970.”  Nina Cardona told a few of the tales that have been collected, noting that the Brooks Fund is continuing to collect such stories from Mid-TN’s LGBT community and that these are being archived in the Nashville Public Library. A documentary is also being made of the first 25 stories. Isn’t that a sign of progress, honoring and commemorating these people and their historical experiences? If so, then it seems that both progress and regression are happening in Nashville these days.

Having just celebrated the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., I recall his words: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”  And, even though we have many different types of people in our nation, our Pledge of Allegiance still says, “…one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”  Let’s define “all.”

Does “all” mean only the ones who think like me, look like me, worship like me, fall in love like me? Davidson Academy and other Christian schools throughout the nation will be re-evaluating their missions and their screening criteria partly because of Davidson Academy’s letter of rejection to this Nashville gay couple. What an excellent opportunity resulting from prejudice and bias even though private schools certainly have the option to select the students they want to educate.

Let’s also think about how we were raised by parents, religious institutions and schools and how we often hold onto some of the values that we learned through osmosis and role modeling, even during our rebellious phases.  I was raised in a Christian church in the Mississippi Delta in the 1960’s with compassionate and liberal parents.  I was taught that being Christian meant what Jesus preached: loving our neighbors as ourselves and calling out injustices between people and groups.

It is time for everyone to take a step back and reassess what they believe and if they call themselves Christian, why are some casting out other Christians, judging them harshly and denying them services, while they accept others? Isn’t it about time for our nation to put to rest the discrimination toward LGBT people and move into the 21st century?  We have come a long way but we still have such a long way to go.

Another factor in our town’s regressive behavior may be that many Americans are still pretty uptight about sexuality, sexual behavior, and sexual lifestyles.  Sex itself is sometimes an anxiety-ridden topic, not just a biological process but loaded with innuendo, values, beliefs, emotions, and judgment. Why can’t all adults just practice love and sex with other consenting adults?  Why does the non-LGBT population get so scared and angry about those unlike themselves?  What do they have to fear?  One size does not fit all.  Even within the Christian community, there are as many diverse beliefs, activities and opinions as there are people, all unique, all just trying to experience love, joy, faith, and community with others in their own ways.

Now that the Supreme Court has decided to hear marriage cases originating in the 6th Circuit that upheld state-level bans against same-sex marriage, we hope that the Supremes will finally make an excellent decision for the LGBT community.  I believe that denying equal rights to the LGBT community is an abomination.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Rape in 2015

Growing up as an adolescent in the 1970’s, I attended college at Sewanee, a primarily male institution that had just allowed women to enter its gates. Back then like today, some young men were aggressive, some sweet and kind. Women and men participated in drinking and drugging on campus and date rape sometimes occurred.

Nowadays, with rape so common nationally and globally, we have to wonder why men still abuse women? Why do men use their strong bodies or weapons to physically overpower women? This is not just the rape of strangers in dark alleys but rape in fancy educational settings, housing privileged kids where rape is an institutional hazard, a nightmare, and a disgrace.

The Nashville trial of young Vanderbilt men this past week illustrates that rape, or even alleged rape ruins lives. For women, men and families. However, many women still do not speak up and admit to being raped because of embarrassment and horror as well as anger toward themselves for “letting it happen” and toward a society that allows it, fearing that nothing will be done and that they themselves will be slut-shamed if they do report.

Do we need stiffer penalties and punishments to show men that women will not stand for such treatment, that rape is abominable?

Let’s also wonder about the nature of human beings wherein all genders have conflicts at times with each other and within ourselves, especially when power is involved, which is every day. Complex dynamics and messy situations occur.Who dares to think that pushing anyone to have sex with them is OK, that having sex with an unconscious body is all right? When will more women and men speak up to stop these men?

Men will have a far better time in life if they respect that women have rules. Rules like, “Don’t violate my body without my permission” for any reason whatsoever. Just like when we women ask our legislators to stay out of our bodies and out of making important decisions about our bodies.

We need to respect each other and not expect anyone else to do what we want just because we want it. If we become good, decent people and look at others as being just the same and as equal as we are, maybe we will decrease the violence we tend to do to each other in all sorts of ways. Maybe if men felt better about themselves, they wouldn’t rape.

To those men who rape, drunk, high or not, please ask yourselves why you need to harm someone else in order to build up your self esteem that is surely lacking. Rape only displays your inadequacy as a man, someone who has to violate others to experience power. Only the weak, scared, angry and confused lash out violently. Raping a woman does not make you a man. It makes you a criminal, who needs help and punishment.