It is is in writing/speaking and reading/listening, that I have found God is able to take us to places we seldom visit. A recent commentary on one of my blogs prompts the following. I will print an excerpt of the commentary and offer my response. (In Response to Comments From –Lessons for United Methodists from Mayor-elect Annise Parker and Strom Thurmond)

 

“Are you sure that Strom Thurmond did not take what he wanted from Carrie Butler and then…”

My point was that too often we in the Church and beyond “use” the gifts of LGBT persons and same gender loving couples and yet condemn them for being who they are; human beings who have the same gifts and graces, perfections and imperfections and if they are people of faith; love God as deeply as any of us do. Thurmond “used” Carrie Butler, and then had the audacity, to block legislation that would benefit Carrie Butler and all of us who are African Americans. I have LGBT friends whose gifts are “used” by preachers and churches, even as those preachers and churches, condemn them because of their “incompatibility”. I sought to suggest in my blog that there are similarities in the way Thurmond related to Carrie Butler, the servant who was the mother of his child, while he demeaned black people as a group. I have seen this same kind of relationship with individual LGBT persons in the church,accepted and affirmed, while from pulpit and pew they and those like them are demeaned.

“But the nerve of you to use God to further your agenda and line your pockets”

I respond in reverse order to this critique. The writer must be aware of income that I have that has not yet reached my pockets. If he could identify the source and amount of that income,I would appreciate it. It has not yet reached my pockets, my wallet nor my bank account.

It is strange that my being an ally/advocate of gay rights in church and society, becomes “your agenda”. Does this suggest that my critic believes that the justice agenda, whether for blacks or for LGBT persons or for women, or poor people, etc. is not an important aspect of God’s agenda? The Broadway play titled; “Your Arms Too Short to Box with God”, is descriptive of my relationship to/with God. “Using” God is to box with God, and history has shown us that those who “used” God to support slavery, segregation and the subjugation of women, boxed with God and lost!

“How dare you trivialize the fight of minorities and compare it to the fight of the LGBT group.”

The writer has trivialized the long struggles of minorities when he suggests that comparisons with other struggles is an act of trivialization. My history of black advocacy and my writings have indicated that there is no equivalency between slavery, racial segregation and the discrimination faced by LGBT persons. But the fight/quest for justice is not an exercise in comparisons, it is an effort to affirm the dignity, rights and humanity of all of God’s people.

“Please don’t say racism is dead.”

It is difficult for me to understand why the writer suggests that the death of racism is something I believe, or have written. Martin Luther King, Jr. said of segregation; “It is dead, it is just a question of how long some folk want to make its funeral.” I believe that the existence of legally sponsored racism or heterosexism is so at variance with God’s intent or the intent of our Constitution, that neither of them has legitimate life. But, sadly in the church and in the nation, there are people who seek to prevent their burial by prolonging their respective funerals. Thus, LGBT persons and black persons are harmed and hurt by these two “isms”. They are perpetrated by persons who have some peculiar need to hold on to their racism and/or heterosexism, not realizing that they are living with the awful odor of an attitude/assumption/action that is dead but not yet buried.

“Media disrespect of our President”

There are those in the media who disrespect our President and that disrespect is so obvious that most Americans can see it. Media “talking heads” who have labeled President Obama, “a racist” or who claim “he hates white people” say much about  themselves and nothing about President Obama. My critic in his writing states, what I too believe; the election of President Obama may have made racial history, but it did not erase our racial history, much of which is negative. There are issues with which I have disagreement with our President. But when any of his critics resorts to racial bias or prejudice to under gird their differences with him, they weaken the legitimacy of their disagreement.

I am writing this after a speaking/preaching engagement in Brooklyn in observance of the Martin Luther King holiday. My critic’s response reminds me of those 8 clergyman in Birmingham who took out an ad criticizing Dr. King, expressing the wish that he and the Movement would leave town. I have remembered the richness of the words and thoughts that Dr. King included in his Letter from Birmingham Jail addressed to those clergymen. I obviously do not have the gifts we saw in the life of Martin Luther King. But, my hope is that my responses may serve to soften the anger that was revealed in the comments of my critic. I, possibly unlike my critic, have sought to allow the wounds that I have experienced for 76 years because of my blackness, to help me become a “wounded healer”, sensitive not only to my wounds, but to the wounds of others. I have felt that if I cannot be sensitive to the harm and hurt that others who are not black, experience, I cannot expect others to be sensitive to the harm and hurt, I have experienced.

Rev. Gil Caldwell

The Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell is a retired United Methodist Minister who lives in Asbury Park, N.J. He was active in the Massachusetts unit of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and participated in the civil-rights movement throughout the nation. In 2000, he, with others, organized the RMN Extension ministry United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church (UMOC), an organization committed to the full inclusion of LGBT people in every aspect of church and society. His recent book, Something Within: Works by Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell is available from Church Within A Church. Gil's advocacy efforts were also featured in the film "From Selma to Stonewall - Are We There Yet?" Learn more at truthinprogress.com

Latest posts by Rev. Gil Caldwell (see all)

Share This