raised fist patterned with the rainbow flag, symbolizing the fight for gay rights

“Darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable,

And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear”

Closer To Fine, The Indigo Girls

I believe that love always wins, that love will always defeat hate. This week that belief has been shaken.

Last Sunday, hate opened fire on innocent souls in their sanctuary. A gay night club was attacked. Hate drove murder into a place where love reigns.

Our nation is mourning. We are asking how this could happen. Why this would happen. We are trying to believe that love trumps hate. We are clinging to the feel good stories of heroes and community support. We are left wondering what we can do. Wanting to extend our love, to lift up the victims and the community, but feeling helpless.

Because our love is not enough. Yes, love can win. I still believe this. But love alone is not enough, not now. Not after hate came storming in on a Sunday morning.

So, it is with love that I say the following:

We need to fight.

We need to fight the hate that is becoming all too familiar in our country. Love won’t win if the loving people curl up on their couches and stay quiet. Not if we wrap our arms around each other but don’t raise our fist in the air in protest.

Now is the time to get loud. To get our hands dirty. To do some serious soul searching. To dig in and refuse to allow hate one more inch.

It means things are going to get uncomfortable. It means challenging beliefs and social norms. Norms that have been accepted in our country for too long.

The norms that say that being gay is a sin.

The norms that say that being gay is “unnatural.”

The norms that say that LGBT people are “freaks.”

“Mentally ill.” “Sick.” “Deranged.” “Deviants.”

Norms that say gay people shouldn’t get married.

Norms that give cover to parents who disown their children because they are gay.

Norms that say it’s ok for a clerk to refuse to grant a marriage license in the name of religious freedom. As if steadfast beliefs could actually be shaken by doing one’s job. Norms that allow good people to stand behind the clerk and support her bigotry.

Norms that have politicians saying that gay people adopting would be a social experiment.

Norms that have large religious organizations condemning a population of people.

Norms that have evangelists saying that hurricanes and natural disasters and even murder is the price to pay for homosexuality. Norms that allow these things to be spoken without widespread condemnation. Without their followers leaving their flock en masse.

Norms that repeat “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” A phrase used as a band aid for bigotry. Because bigotry is what it is when people themselves are classified as sins.

Think about that. A person is a sin. 

That is hate. That is demonizing a whole population.

Apparently these things are ok to say.  To say it as a “belief” makes it ok. Hate cloaked in ideology. Hate under the veil of spirituality.

But make no mistake, it’s hate.

I have heard these words sitting in a church pew. I have heard them shouted on the playground. I have heard them in casual conversation with adults. My kids have come home relaying stories of kids repeating these hateful words. I have read them in the comments section on my own blog post.

Words matter. Words spoken in houses of worship of many faiths matter. These words may not be said from a place of hate, but once spoken they become permission to condemn. To judge. To look down upon.

To hate.

And for some people? To kill.

Hate is swelling as we speak. Hate is running amok out of fear, fear of progress and fear of change. We see more hate when rights are being given to people who have been oppressed. As we progress and we give more rights to LGBT, as most of us welcome and love our brothers and sisters regardless of who they are, without any concern for who they love, as we move forward and make progress on being a better, more inclusive society… we see more hate.

Hate doesn’t like progress.Hate will always try to stop it. Hate will try to keep things stagnant. To regress. To make America great again. Progress is the antidote to hate, so hate will call in the reinforcements and do everything it can to stop forward motion.

Hate needs fuel. It needs people to buy into it. It needs people to repeat tired and senseless words of oppression and judgement. Words repeated so often over the years. Repetition. Routine. Tradition. Hate that survives in our modern day out of tradition. Is that a reason to allow hate to continue? Is tradition so important that we won’t stand up to words that speak hate? Hate infiltrates the routine. It repeats softly, sings it’s hateful words with a sweet melody. Repeat after me… 

I’m sick of hate. I’m tired of seeing it when I read the news, tired of hearing it from people who aim to be our leaders. Tired of hearing it from people who think they have the right to pass judgement. I’m tired of hearing kids spout off the hate they are hearing in their homes. The DNA of hate being embedded in their young bones. I’m tired of reading it when I write about LGBT rights.

I’m just tired.

But I refuse to give in to hate. I refuse to concede. I will call it out every time I see it or hear it. I will defy the sick social norms we’ve all become accustomed to.

Whether the hate comes from a twisting of an ancient faith, whether it comes from self loathing, whether it comes from fear of change, whether it comes from ignorance, I will not let hate go unchallenged.

Hate under the guise of beliefs has a long history. It was hate when interracial marriages were considered against “natural law.” It was hate that allowed Nazi Germany to commit genocide. It is hate that radical Islamic extremists employ to stone gay people to death. It is hate when Vladimir Putin jails people for being gay. It is hate when the influential American Family Association advocates criminalizing LGBT, advocates abducting the children of gay couples, among other despicable things. And it is hate when fundamentalist Christianity decries homosexuality as a sin.

It’s time to challenge some antiquated, misguided, despicable norms.

It means challenging people you may respect. It means calling them out. Saying “No more.” It means not tolerating hate speech.

Love sometimes means fighting. Hate doesn’t play fair. We can’t hug our way to a better place. The Civil Rights Movement didn’t make groundbreaking progress by disassociating and only looking at the positive. Martin Luther King, Jr. fought hate and injustice. He challenged notions that were being defended as faith. He advocated for love and peace while fighting oppression. He did it eloquently and fervently and loudly.

You can fight in the name of love. Change doesn’t happen with a whisper.

There’s much work to do, my friends. It’s time to challenge norms, change mindsets, change the words that are acceptable to say. It’s time to change what we accept. We have people who have been attacked. They have been attacked with hateful policies, with ignorant laws, with slurs and bullying.  And now they have been attacked in cold blood.

It’s time to shine a hot, glaring light on darkness and hate. It’s time to stop it’s angry feeding, to cut off it’s food supply.

Carry love in your heart while you shut down the hate you see and hear. Let love be the reason you decide No more. No more hate under the guise of faith. No more co-opting something we hold sacred to further an agenda. No more tolerating bigotry, no matter where it comes from. No one is above reproach in this battle.

No more staying quiet.

Let’s get loud.

 

no-respect

Right now everyone’s talking about beliefs. Beliefs that prompted the infamous Religious Freedom Act in Indiana last year, and last week’s Georgia’s Religious Freedom Bill and most recently North Carolina’s wide reaching and shocking HB 2, along with other similar initiatives that are peppering the country. Laws and bills aimed at limiting or taking away rights.

It’s supposedly all about beliefs. A conversation that has echoes of the not too distant path. Beliefs that are being recycled but not repurposed. A hand me down with historical context.

Beliefs are being held up and declared all while clutched in sweaty, angry fists. Beliefs are being trotted out like a prize pig at a State Fair.

So much talk of beliefs. And we all know that talk is the cheapest currency.

All of this talk is treading on some sacred ground. Beliefs (especially the religious kind) are for most of us a taboo subject. We don’t discuss them, we don’t engage in debate about them. Just try to bring it up on FaceBook and watch the insults fly and the defriending begin. No, we prefer to leave others to their beliefs and quietly go about living our lives guided by our own.

Most of us, that is.

Others? Well, they like to scream their beliefs in the faces of those who dare stand up to bigotry. Spittle forming in their taut mouth as they spout their reasons for the taking away of rights from others.

So what’s a respectful equality loving person to do when we see beliefs being molded into a vehicle for injustice and discrimination? What do we do when we see someone using their beliefs to leave people out, to treat them differently? When it’s affecting people’s rights to rent an apartment or a home? People’s rights to access to anything and everything that most of us take for granted. People’s rights to patronize a business? Sound familiar?

Do we sit quietly out of politeness and deference to said beliefs?

I have been struggling with this. I don’t want to step on anyone’s faith or beliefs. It’s not my way, it’s not my aim. But this conversation needs to happen and it doesn’t have to turn into debates over beliefs.

I don’t care about your beliefs.

I’m not here to trample your beliefs. I’m not here to comment on anyone’s beliefs.

I don’t feel like your beliefs are any of my business.

I don’t feel the need to say that I respect your beliefs.

It’s not my place to evaluate or determine whether your beliefs are worthy of respect.

Because I don’t care about your beliefs.

I care about your actions.

I care about how you treat the people you come in contact with every day.

I care about how you treat people you may not agree with.

Your beliefs? Who am I to judge them? They are for you to wrestle with and to determine.

If you are my neighbor, my friend, my boss, my congressman? I don’t care if you’re Christian or Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist or Atheist. Your beliefs are not my business nor my concern.

Beliefs are something that may guide you to live life with integrity and compassion. Or beliefs can be something you can carry around in your back pocket and pull out at any moment to justify actions. The difference boils down to character.

I’m interested in the fairness and compassion and empathy you do or do not express to your brothers and sisters of all faiths, all sexes, all races, all sexual orientations.

If you have to justify your behavior with your beliefs? That I can’t respect. Your beliefs are inconsequential. Your actions are the mark of your character. Making excuses or justification is just a lazy way to explain bad behavior. To pat yourself on the back as you step on the backs of others. If that’s your standard operating procedure, then I don’t respect you.

If you think you are better than others because of your beliefs? Then I can’t respect you. If you judge the lifestyle of other good people just trying to make it in this harsh world? Then I can’t respect you. If you cloak your compassion in judgmental pity? Then I can’t respect you. If you only lend a helping hand to others under the condition that they have to listen to your beliefs and subscribe to them? Then I can’t respect you.

If you are using beliefs to justify inequality? Then maybe you should check your beliefs. Because this is an old song and most of us are tired of hearing the tune. There was a time when beliefs were used as justification for unequal and in-humane and degrading treatment of black people in our country. Looking back I think we can all agree that it was a perversion of the beliefs that were held up as testimony. I think we can all agree that the beliefs that were co-opted and intertwined with vitriol were being abused and used as a cover for fear and hate.

Using beliefs to take away rights? Using beliefs to make a group of people less than? That’s ideology cloaked in fear and hate’s clothing. And it has the faint smell of disingenuousness. Don’t hide behind the safe and untouchable veil of your beliefs. Own your actions. Don’t pass the buck or the blame on to something you claim you hold sacred.

Here’s a little of what I believe.

I believe that equality is equality is equality.

No prerequisites. No conditions. No parameters.

I believe that compassion and caring and empathy for people who are not like you is one of the most important elements of our character.

I believe that actions speak louder than beliefs.

Equality.

It’s really not that complicated.

I believe the loving people in this world far outnumber the fearful and hateful people.

I think most of us want to live peacefully and harmoniously with our brothers and sisters who are just trying to make it in this harsh world.

I do not buy into the politicization of beliefs. The co-opting and the twisting of ideals. The cult of fear and judgement.

If you look upon everyone who is different from you with contempt and fear and condemnation? Then you are going to be spending a lot more time in a dark place my friend. Because our world is becoming smaller. We are connected and exposed in ways never before possible. Thanks to our digital age, we hear from and see and meet people from all over.

Along with this connectedness comes lots of new. New ideas, new lifestyles, new perspectives, new experiences. There’s no turning back from the world we now inhabit, one that is becoming increasingly… one. So maybe now is a good time to open our minds and open our hearts. To accept all the differences that come with living amongst other people.

Maybe now is a good time to embrace the differences and learn to adapt to our changing world. Maybe now is a good time to operate with an open mind. To realize that your way may not always be the best way. That change is not always bad.

Maybe now is the time to stop using your beliefs as a shield against all that you fear. Maybe now is the time to realize that your beliefs belong to you. No one can take them from you. The lifestyle of others does not impact or change your beliefs. If someone else’s way of living affects your beliefs? Maybe now is the time to check the shaky ground upon which your beliefs are tenuously perched.

Maybe you will find that your beliefs shouldn’t cause you to mistreat or discriminate.

Maybe you will come to the conclusion that no good ever comes from taking away rights.

Maybe you’ll see that it’s not even about your beliefs.

It’s about your actions.

Maybe you’ll realize that it’s time to leave beliefs out of the equation.

Maybe we’ll all be better off for it.