“Southerners On New Ground (SONG) is a regional Queer Liberation organization made up of Black people, people of color, immigrants, undocumented people, people with disabilities, working class and rural and small town, LGBTQ people in the South.”
Warning, this post isn’t what I originally set out to write although the title still applies. Faith when truly lived is a life of justice for all people. As a result, I will now call this Part I on how Faith and Justice are Synonymous.
After a beautiful morning, when I awakened to the sun and life full of hope and goodness. Messages from others got me working on issues of justice for others early on. Today was a meeting with new spiritual friends at the Valle Crucis Conference Center. We hope to work together and plan a prayer retreat for 2020. My spirit was renewed. The meeting gave me hope. I couldn’t wait to get home to ponder an outline already forming in my head and heart.
When I arrive home, there is an odd letter in my mailbox. It is not handwriting that I recognize, and it feels empty like someone addressed an envelope and forgot to put the letter in. Still, I did not open it at the mailbox. I save letters for when I get in the house so that I can savor them as I read them. Letter writing is an art I’ve hoped to keep alive by writing relatives and friends (both old friends and new).
When I opened the letter however, there wasn’t a letter, but just a response to one of the columns or editorials I wrote to a local paper. My guess is that it was from my hometown’s paper since there was a Charlotte postmark, but I could be wrong. There was no time or date when the article was published. Only that it was in response to something I sent in last week about loving one another and that Jesus says nothing about homosexuality. There was no letter, name, or signature. The handwriting is not one I recognize.
When I wrote the papers of the rural places I’ve lived in the South, I knew that there would be lash back in the papers and possibly from my family. My purpose was not to start an argument but to post a point of view from a lesbian of faith to the rural areas where I’ve lived in my life. There are only two places that I know published the short piece. Neither of them listed my address OR town. Yet, on this day, I get a letter from someone I do not know or someone too chicken, cowardly, or obtuse as to omit his/her own return address and name.
I scan the letter for any signs of who might have sent it. The print suggests that it was from somewhere that my family is known. I know what the font looks like in the local paper in my hometown. The newspaper has always been something I read anywhere I lived. Though, the font used in the paper when I lived near OKC was not one I enjoyed reading, so that’s when I began reading USA Today. Still, had it been in a hard-to-read font, I would have checked the Oklahoma paper. But the truth is, the postmark was out of Charlotte. Perhaps the person sending it forgot that the US mail still postmarks everything. Since few write actual letters anymore, why would people think of that or even remember it?
My first response sadly was to think that someone betrayed me by giving my personal and home address out to someone who could harm me. Truthfully, the only reason my mind went there is that it is only from my family that I’ve gotten such things. Still, my family is upfront and doesn’t care if it bothers or upsets me and will tell me to my face what they think. Then someone reminded me of White Pages and how easily our personal information can be distributed on the world wide web.
Because of being stalked before I’m usually vigilant in watching to make sure that such data is not easily accessible. The grief from divorce made me careless and forgetful. Because I set up a PO box when I first got here, also felt a bit safe that no other places had my personal address to sell. Then, there was a short time when I was so depressed from the divorce and having to move and being disabled that I didn’t care if I was harmed. Again, that was careless, and I’ve contacted the places necessary to remove that info.
This makes me angry. Part of the anger is fear, I know. The larger part is anger though. Anger because it seems that at 58, we are going backward in time. Lesbians earned the right to marriage in 2014. Now, those things are trying to be rescinded by the government. Then, this, someone from the conservative branch of the Christian tradition sends me a letter about my sinfulness and that I need a cure as if they don’t. There is no one human being alive who is free from sin if we understand theology and scripture in the correct way.
That’s the point, isn’t it? We are arguing like this with each person needing/wanting to be righter than G-d. Here’s what I’m going to tell you. If you are fluent in ancient Hebrew/Aramaic and ancient Greek then, I will read your letter. Unless you neglect to leave your return, address or sign it. If you have studied the Dead Sea Scrolls in depth and have infinite knowledge about how ancient language works, I will read your letter…unless you send it anonymously.
Also, read this list of books and then we can talk about how G-d is interpreted throughout time (unless you don’t sign the letter). If you are not brave enough to put your name to an issue, keep your thoughts to yourself.
Allison, C. FitzSimons. Fear, Love, and Worship. Vancouver: Regent College Pub., 2003. Print.
Boase, T. S. R. St. Francis of Assisi. London: Duckworth, 1936. Print.
Bolz-Weber, Nadia. Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People. New York: Convergent, 2015. Print.
Bondi, Roberta C. To Love as God Loves: Conversations with the Early Church. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987. Print.
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. London: SCM, 2015. Print.
Boom, Corrie Ten, Elizabeth Sherrill, and John L. Sherrill. The Hiding Place. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2015. Print.
Brown, Brene. Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. Waterville, ME: Thorndike, 2018. Print.
CHODRON, PEMA. PRACTICING PEACE. S.l.: SHAMBHALA, 2018. Print.
CHODRON, PEMA. START WHERE YOU ARE: A Guide to Compassionate Living. S.l.: SHAMBHALA, 2018. Print.
Confessor, Maximus, George C. Berthold, and Jaroslav Pelikan. Selected Writings. New York: Paulist, 1985. Print.
DRUMMOND, HENRY. GREATEST THING IN THE WORLD. S.l.: HANSE, 2016. Print.
Fox, Matthew. Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality: Presented in Four Paths, Twenty-six Themes, and Two Questions. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 2000. Print.
House, Silas. Southernmost. S.l.: ALGONQUIN OF CHAPEL HILL, 2019. Print.
Hanh, Nhát, and Robert Ellsberg. Thich Nhat Hanh: Essential Writings. London: Darton Longman & Todd, 2008. Print.
Johnson, Chelsey. Stray City: A Novel. New York, NY: Custom House, 2018. Print.
Johnson, Jay Emerson. Peculiar Faith: Queer Theology for Christian Witness. New York: Seabury, 2014. Print.
Julian. Revelations of Divine Love. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2006. Print.
Merton, Thomas. New Seeds of Contemplation. Norton & Co.: n.p., 2007. Print.
Pavlovitz, John. A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2017. Print.
Picoult, Jodi. Sing You Home. Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2015. Print.
Robinson, V. Gene. God Believes in Love: Straight Talk about Gay Marriage. New York: Vintage, 2013. Print.
Scanzoni, Letha, and Virginia R. Mollenkott. Is the Homosexual My Neighbor: A Positive Christian Response. New York, NY: HarperOne, 1994. Print.
Spong, John Shelby. Here I Stand: My Struggle for a Christianity of Integrity, Love, and Equality. New York: HarperOne, 2001. Print.
Spoon, Rae, and Ivan E. Coyote. Gender Failure. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp, 2016. Print.
Tillich, Paul, and Harvey Cox. The Courage to Be. New Haven: Yale UP, 2014. Print.
Trible, Phyllis. God and Rhetoric of Sexuality. Philadelphia: Fortress, 2005. Print.
Whitley, J. Robin. In a Southern Closet. Port Arthur, TX: Regal Crest, 2011. Print.