When Religion Puts Our Lives In Peril

by Curtis Lipscomb

Within my Christian upbringing, I attempt at being a spiritual person. I believe that our spirituality and faith is a source of strength and hope. Unfortunately, I have seen religion too oftentimes be a firmly held set of rituals beholden to a literal and legalistic interpretation.
Historically and currently, religion is a source of spiritual violence.

As I see it, religion can dangerously hold sacred the demoralizing system of patriarchy, sexism, effemiphobia and hatred towards God’s LGBTQ children, who, according to the Book of Genesis, are made in the very image and likeness of God, just like everybody else.

In my lifetime, I have experienced religion’s painful hostility towards LGBT members of faith communities. More painfully, we see this form of religion being exported to the continent of Africa, where being LGBT is not just subject to ostracism as many times happens in our community, but is punishable by death. Where is the gospel (good news) in that?

Something has to change.

While we celebrate the bold prophetic emergence of leaders, such as Rev. Mayowa Lisa Reynolds of Fellowship Chapel in Detroit, Rev. Michael Nabors of Second Baptist Church in Evanston, IL and Rev. Roland Stringfellow of Metropolitan Community Church Detroit in Ferndale, MI, and Detroit native Bishop Allyson Abrams of Empowerment Liberation Cathedral in Silver Springs, MD, there are many religious leaders who have abandoned our communities.

Where our very lives are in peril, these individuals choose to not take a consistent, active stance on fierce social justice inequities.

In the Gospel of Luke, if one is to embrace a Christian mentality, we hear of the tale of the Good Samaritan. The question leading to this story is, “Who is our neighbor?” In Jesus’ time, Samaritans were the outsiders, held in little regard.

Yet, Christ identifies the Samaritan as the one who takes the right action. However, it’s not just that the Samaritan takes on the role of the good neighbor through his actions, but that those listening to the story see that the Samaritan, the outsider, is not really an outsider.

There is a work that must be done to focus on more than sexual orientation and gender expression. As the social consciousness changes in America for LGBT people, there are other critical freedoms that are under attack. As we continue to discover ways forward to end discriminatory practices—that we are not insiders versus outsiders in the United States—new ways of inequality have emerged: racial injustice leading to an alarming pandemic of black and brown lives.

This is an opportunity to create an “Ebenezer” moment, a reminder of God’s presence and help. Will the LGBT community bend to accept the racial injustice, economic inequality most commonly borne by people of color?

Will we accept that there is a disproportionate incidence of incarceration for black and brown bodies…some of whom are LGBT?

Something has to change!

Consider this: Anti-discrimination laws are under siege nationwide. For example, on Election Day last fall in Houston, voters defeated Proposition 1 in a landslide. This referendum protected the rights of LGBT persons based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. The ordinance was also designed to protect individuals based on sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, genetic information and pregnancy in the City of Houston.

It failed. Extremists and fundamentalists led the cause against this referendum and won. With 61% against the proposition, this defeat has caused a plight for LGBT communities who continue to fight for justice.

Something has got to change!

Locally, I am greatly concerned for the wellbeing of my community. Bringing awareness, peace and accessibility of spiritual support to Detroit’s LGBT community is a most sacred aim. HIV is an ongoing epidemic that disproportionately affects young black lives. Our families are dying.

If we are not preaching messages of unconditional love, educating our communities with facts, not opinions—if we are not taking those actions, then we are complicit in the death of our family members to HIV and AIDS. And further, we have failed in God’s eternal message of love for all God’s people.

Within the core of who we are, there is a need to receive and give love and compassion, both from our Creator and our neighbor—this theology that says a person is more than a condition, medical or otherwise, created in the likeness and image of God. We need loving and compassionate faith-based responses throughout Detroit.

We need the Body of Christ (Christians) to voice and act in a way that speaks with an unconditional embracing of ALL.

We need churches that are willing to stand up against ignorance, fear and hatred against people on the basis of their sexual identity or sexual orientation. If our churches, our faith leaders, our sisters and brothers in our congregations are not a voice of healing and unity, then, who are we, and why are we really in these communities that identify as Christian—loving God and our neighbor?

The good news is that things are changing, even though the change is not keeping pace with the demonstrated need. There is enough motivation in LGBT Detroit to advocate the HIV epidemic to religious leaders and the importance that HIV is not just a singular disease. It is not hard to see the social justice component to HIV work since it has a detrimental impact on many marginalized communities, such as sexual minorities, Blacks, Hispanics, and the poor.

If LGBT Detroit is capable of conveying the concerns of HIV awareness and non-discrimination practices to religious leaders of our metro area, then there is full capability to spread awareness through other cities as well.

We are the locks and knowledge is the key.

I know. I have witnessed the success of people within the Christian faith leading and fighting for justice. We must continue to work together in the ongoing issues of HIV and discrimination and their condemning effects on our society—physically, politically, spiritually.

Photo via flickr KOREphotos