Monday, April 21, 2008

Dear Senator Obama by a lesbian Christian

Obama's quote from the Chicago Tribune, Mar. 25, 2007:

I'm a Christian. And so, although I try not to have my religious beliefs dominate or determine my political views on this issue, I do believe that tradition, and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman.

In response, Ann Canas, lesbian, writer, producer/actor, media host and member of the Metropolitan Community Church of LA, wrote an open letter to Sen. Barack Obama at The Advocate on why his speech "sends a subtle message that being gay and being Christian are mutually exclusive." A few excerpts:

Your and Senator Clinton’s voting and legislative records are for the most part identical on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues and are generally supportive of basic GLBT civil, social, and legal rights and protections. Although both you and Senator Clinton decline to support gay marriage per se, it is your statements on this issue that seem alienating, divisive, and uninformed and that subtly contribute to the persistence of one of this country’s worst forms of religious persecution and social bigotry. Even the possibility that you and your platform -- wittingly or unwittingly -- may contribute to the perpetuation of bigotry and prejudice in any way against anyone is, to our sensibilities, unthinkable.

While you are careful to appear to uphold and defend the GLBT community’s basic safety and legal rights, in a March 25, 2007, Chicago Tribune story that referenced comments you made during your 2004 run for the U.S. Senate, you led off your objections to gay marriage with the statement “I'm a Christian” [Ed: see above quote]. On its own as a part of your personal profile or in answer to a query about your personal beliefs, this statement is both appropriate and informative. But linked to your objections about gay marriage and by extension the gay lifestyle, it serves to entrench modern attitudes of religion-based bigotry and persecution and effectively implies that “gay” and “Christian” are mutually exclusive. This is not only wrong and uninformed but also flies in the face of the most basic Christian values and beliefs of unconditional love and acceptance. There are over 500,000 GLBT Christians attending over 200 churches like my church, Metropolitan Community Church Los Angeles, as well as hundreds of similar open and affirming churches all over America and around the world. We do not believe that you or anyone in thought, word, belief, or action can separate us from our religion, our faith, and our rightful place within the heart and love of Jesus Christ.

And while we recognize the sensibilities of many of our fellow Americans concerning the traditional configuration of the institution of marriage, our loving and lifetime commitments to our partners, our families, and our children cannot be diminished in heart and spirit and are fully as valuable and sacred as your own. Regardless of convention and interpretation of the word marriage, your brave new American Dream must embrace us and our loved ones as sincerely and unconditionally as you have extended it to all other segments of our society.

Considering that you represent and are clearly the preferred candidate for a majority of African-Americans, we are also concerned about the quiet but pervasive problem of homophobia among blacks -- a problem that is deeply rooted in the Christian fundamentalist context of many black churches and denominations. This undercurrent of belief-sanctioned fear and ignorance continues to divide families, separate loved ones, break hearts, and exacerbate the pathology of rejection and social alienation within the black community....

...You of all people cannot forget that once upon a time not so long ago, many of those who made the case against civil rights for blacks and who condemned interracial marriage also cited religious beliefs as their justification for separation and conditional treatment.

You and your presidential campaign are living proof of an evolution in the consciousness of a nation. We are living proof of an evolution unfolding in human consciousness: namely, the awareness that love transcends gender as surely as race and that spirit is not contained by black or white or male or female or any other characteristic of human condition or appearance....

Mr. Obama, you have clearly stated your reluctance to allow your private religious beliefs to shape your public policy. This is wise in theory but difficult in practice, because while you are free to interpret your personal religious beliefs in any way you choose, as a talented orator you realize that words are powerful and can also crucially shape both public policy and public opinion. This letter is not an attempt to change your personal opinions or religious beliefs on this or any other issue, but it is an invitation for you to reexamine your spoken expressions and public statements toward a segment of Americans about whom you clearly evidence a lack of knowledge and experience.... [Emphasis added in bold.]

Well said and beautifully written.

The subject of being LGBT and the bigotry of Biblical literalist interpretations at odds with what Jesus taught has been my mission as an artist, to expose hypocrisy and contradictions, reintroduce the sacred feminine that's been edited out of the Bible, and offer a more inclusive, unconditionally loving deity in my artistic narratives. And I am not alone.

Many LGBT folk have spiritual leanings as do I. As Ann Canas does. Some of us express artistic visions that incorporate queer theology--painters, sculptors, and photographers--as can be seen in the illustrated book nominated for a LAMBDA Literary Award, Art That Dares, written by Kittredge Cherry. And Cherry as author has written two ground-breaking novels about a queer Christ, Jesus In Love and Jesus In Love: At The Cross.

There's a teeming spiritual LGBT community that's risen up to say Jesus embodied unconditional love and never did he condemn LGBTs for being LGBT. Why does the traditional church? We have formed our own churches or gravitated toward those that delivered a more universal belief than a strictly Christian one. Or abandoned religion all together. Individuals and orgs like Mel White and Gary Nixon of Soulforce, the CLOUT sisters, Rev. Irene Monroe, Bishop Gene Robinson on the LGBT side, and John Shelby Spong, Rabbi Michael Lerner of the Spiritual Progressive Network on the non-LGBT side--to name only a few, there are many--minister to us through their work and their words. There are also a few LGBT-inclusive churches that have embraced us realizing that sexual minorities are part of the natural tapestry of life.

I hope that Sen. Obama will reverse his beliefs--for they underpin his words--and awaken from what I have perceived as his own religious-based homophobia. But I'm not optimistic. He turned his back on us over the objections of the LGBT community when he invited Donnie McClurkin to fundraise for him. And he has behaved in other ways that have been disappointing (see related below). IMO, I think he values winning more than risking the alienation of a portion of the African American community and people of all colors who judge us LGBT people as against God's will and living in sin. I would love to be proven wrong about Obama by Obama.

The subject of Obama and the LGBT community causes me a bit of grief in remembering how much I miss Coretta Scott King. I truly wish she were still alive to show Obama the way. She understood completely that unconditional love, courage, and justice are intertwined as the beautiful soul who graced us with her mighty presence here on earth.

In the meantime, let me say, thank you, Ann Canas.