by Mac Simon
We are nearing the end of Equality Ride, and I’ve been meditating a lot about this one question: “What is love?” It’s a big concept to think about, but at the same time one of the simplest emotions to feel and identify. I feel love for my fellow Riders, and I feel love for all of the people we’ve met (and will continue to meet) on this wild adventure.
I have to admit – I’ve been thinking about what I want to write in this blog for days, and our recent visits to Southwest Baptist University and Bethel College provided some clarity on the topic of love. While discussing how Christians should love their GLBTQ siblings during a panel at SBU, an SBU professor said: “The way I love you – I call it love, and you call it oppression.” This didn’t sit well with me, for what (I hope) are obvious reasons.
Similarly, our stop at Bethel College was challenging. At one point during a large group discussion with Riders and Bethel students, administrators, and faculty, Jennifer spoke quite powerfully: ”I’ve been sitting here for a long time feeling really emotional. I know it’s not anyone’s fault that your school is the thirteenth of 15 schools that we’re visiting, but I am so tired of hearing over and over again, my experience of being queer listed next to sins like lying, or being queer talked about as something to struggle with like gossip. I understand that people here believe that it’s a sin. And I don’t. I don’t struggle with it. But it’s hard for me to sit here and listen to this being said over and over again because I am in a relationship with a woman that Ilove. I love her. And I want to build a life with her and build children with her… What other sin is a part of building a loving life with someone?”
A professor in the room then said that humans have a flawed perspective of what love really is because we’re all in sin. As a response to Jennifer’s passionate proclamation of love for Cait, he proposed that humans have no idea what love looks like because of original sin, and thereby condemned Jennifer and Cait’s relationship. At this point, I was boiling. I saw the look on Jennifer’s face when the professor said this, and I had to speak up. “Sir, if I understood you correctly, I don’t think that you heard anything that Jennifer just shared. I know Cait and Jennifer, and they are truly in love. How can you say that their love is sinful? It’s not hurting anyone! In fact, it’s beautiful. I feel personally hurt by this comment because I am in love with someone who’s not on Equality Ride, and I constantly have to fight for my right to love my partner.”
When Riders share their stories very openly and honestly, from a vulnerable place that may still be an open wound, we hope to never be met with cruel words or admonishments that who we are – core parts of our identity and our sense of self – is sinful. Unfortunately, we hear those things often. I’m exhausted from trying to find relatable ways of saying (in Jennifer Luu’s words), “You live in this world with humans, as you are a human. It is right and good to be nice to said humans and not be a jerk. Please try it. Please.”
We’ve been all over the country in the past seven weeks, and I’ve learned that people love to play the “us vs. them” game. But when we start playing the “us vs. them” game, we lose sight of what it means to love. One way that WE – people, humanity, folks of every faith background, culture, race, sexual orientation, gender, ability, class – are set free is by telling our own story, sharing from our heart the experience of what it means to be [your name here]. While facts can help explain us, only stories can save us. And only when we know each others’ stories can we truly love each other. So listen. Receive. Learn. Open your heart to what your neighbor shares with you.
by Darren Arquero
From the Canton Rep
Lesbian and gay advocates brought a message of equality Friday to Malone University.
The faith-based university does not permit homosexual activity on campus, per its student conduct policy.
Soulforce, a nonproft organization, visited the campus to promote safe education for its community. Supporters advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community and — in this case — students.
They have been on a national bus tour, the 2010 Equality Ride, stopping at faith-based colleges across the country.
Caitlin MacIntyre, director of the Equality Ride, said they hope to build relationships with schools and create a safe place for all students.
Friday’s daylong event at Malone was not open to the public.
MacIntyre, 21, said her group wants LGBTQ students at Malone to feel affirmed by God, “that being queer and Christian are not mutually exclusive,” she said.
Read the full article
by Stuart Brewster
Let me tell you a little bit about Amanda Lee. She is a woman of tremendous strength, resourcefulness, and love. Her recent story involves overcoming enormous challenges over seven years to earn her Bachelor’s degree at an Assemblies of God Bible school in Minnesota, a degree she desired so she could serve God and minister to His people in love and truth. But two months before her scheduled graduation last May, she was kicked out for being bisexual.
Although it’s been almost a year since then as of the time of this posting, Amanda Lee applied to join the Equality Ride last Fall – less than 5 months after getting kicked out of her school and losing her ministry and housing. When all the riders met for our first training in January, it had been little more than half a year. That was when she volunteered to be the stop planner for a Baptist school in Springfield, Missouri – which is also home to the world headquarters for the Assemblies of God.
The Assemblies of God is a very large, very influential, very conservative Christian denomination. Their “firm stance on homosexuality” is responsible for an enormous amount of spiritual violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer people around the world.
Continue Reading »
by Sabrina Diz
Today we visited the much anticipated Baylor University. Two years ago when Soulforce visited the campus they chalked in front of the chapel and were asked to stop. All but five Riders and one student stopped at which point the ones that continued were arrested on trespassing charges. Yes, I said “chalked” which is the same as writing on sidewalk and streets with chalk. When they were taken to jail they were cavity searched, kept overnight before pretrial even though they were arrested mid-day, and a Trans Rider was mistreated he was placed in a female cell. All this, may I repeat, for chalking on sidewalk.
Mia and Jaxon, the Stop Planners for the school, coordinated a different approach this year and negotiated with administrator’s permission on campus to speak to students, faculty, and staff.
Continue Reading »
by Stuart Brewster
At our first training back in January, each rider was assigned a stop to organize during the trip. What this means for me is that I had been working on our stop at Belhaven University in Jackson, MS for about 2.5 months by the time we actually got there on March 29th. Naturally, I was a little bit anxious that things would go smoothly and productively.
Mostly, they did. We had a lovely day on campus filled with conversations with students, faculty, and staff and interspersed with lots and lots of great food. Far from the hospitality for appearance’s sake it felt like we had received elsewhere, it seemed that the folks at BU really wanted us there to have conversations and talk about the issues. We – the folks at the school as well as us on the ride – learned a lot and walked away with new friends. We were also able to do a service project with a group of students the next afternoon, and had two awesome potlucks at community churches with lots of networking opportunities. Success!
Aside from the “usual” discomforts of folks pulling out the same passages of the Bible and urging us to reconsider our sinful ways, and (especially for the non-Christians among us) prayers for our souls and salvation, we also experienced a special kind of tension in Jackson – a place that in many ways is the heart of the Deep South. A city with 85% African-American population and also one of the poorest major cities in America, in a state where racism both remembered and present in a fashion unseen anywhere else. A place where the Freedom Rides made a stand and are still remembered with fear and anxiety. And, it turns out, a place where the only LGBTQ affirming spaces are largely white.
A fellow rider, a person of color, pointed this out to me and requested that I allow one of the smaller events to be optional, to give folks a break from the pressure of being so identifiably different all the time. Upset that I had failed to account for this in my planning, I responded initially by saying no and justified my response by saying it would be rude to the folks who were hosting us. My response was rooted in my ego as well as in ignorance of what it means to be a person of color anywhere, and especially being a person of color doing something like the Equality Ride. My response was racist.
When I realized this, I was crushed. I just didn’t know what to do. We worked it out eventually, on a personal level at least, but I was left with the realization that in my desire for things to run smoothly I had failed to meaningfully confront racism yet again. I had neglected to account for the experiences of folks who are different from me – a unique kind of hypocrisy when I’ve had the audacity to confront so many people at the schools we’ve visited with similar truths. The log in my eye is bigger than I thought, it would seem.
I am still satisfied with much of our experience at Belhaven. I really do believe that some folks we talked with will be allies for LGBTQ people at that school and that our message of God’s affirmation and love for all God’s children was received. But here, at the halfway point in our trip (8th of 16 schools), I am learning all over again of the inadequacy of my approach. If I could go back and repurpose those 2.5 months, I would. But I can’t.
All that’s left is tomorrow.
Next: Mississippi College in Clinton, MS.
by Darren Arquero
Selections of press coverage from the 2010 Equality Ride thus far. For media inquiries, contact Jennifer Luu.
Baylor Lariat Online
This week, Baylor made a positive statement by allowing Soulforce on campus and welcoming them under the doctrine of Christian love.
More specifically, Kevin Jackson, vice president for student life, handled the equal rights advocacy group’s visit in a transparent manner that allowed for dialogue to take place on campus.
Equality Ride members walked around campus Tuesday speaking individually to a broad range of students advocating a message of acceptance for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. [...]
Reporter News: Your Abilene Online
Local university administrators have been preparing for this bus stop for months. The SoulForce [sic] Equality Ride arrives at Hardin-Simmons University today, kicking off four days in Abilene. SoulForce’s two-month bus tour is visiting universities to discuss lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. The group will visit HSU today and tomorrow and then Abilene Christian University on Friday.
Michael Whitehorn, senior vice president for student development at HSU, said he does not anticipate any problems with the group’s visit. “I expect (the visit) to be congenial, but I’m sure they’ll ask difficult questions about policy matters and whatnot,” Whitehorn said. [...]
An organization that advocates for the rights of “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning people,” will visit campus for the second time in four years this semester. Soulforce members will travel for almost two months on their tour of 13 universities in more than a dozen states.
Dr. Jean-Noel Thompson, vice president for Student Life and dean of students, said Soulforce contacted the universityand requested permission to stop at ACU on Apr. 9 as part of the 2010 Equality Ride. [...]
Everyone’s interest has at least been piqued by the upcoming Equality Ride visit of Soulforce April 14, the organization attempting to end “religious and political oppression” of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning people (LGBTQ).
“Currently, there is a visit itinerary and an agreement of understanding that is being discussed between the University and the Equality Ride group,” said Dean of Students Rob Harris in email correspondence. “Once there is mutual agreement, those details will be shared.”
Harris added, “If there is not a mutual agreement regarding the itinerary and memo of understanding, then the group will not be allowed on campus. Based on the group’s purpose, as stated in their letter, I anticipate an agreement being made.” [...]
Many people were involved in the March 9 Equality Ride visit, but only one individual had close ties with both the Soulforce organization and Houghton College. Because of this unique distinction, former Houghton student Andrew Langdon was tasked by his fellow Equality Riders with organizing the day’s events. After the visit, The Houghton Star asked Langdon to reflect on his time at Houghton and share his thoughts about the March 9 visit. [...]
by Brian Murphy
Rev. Dr. Cindi Love begins her new duties as Executive Director for Soulforce on April 22, 2010. Dr. Cindi Love brings a wide range of leadership, management and organizational experience to her new role as SOULFORCE’s Executive Director. From January 2005 until April 2009, she served as the Executive Director of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC). Prior to MCC, she served as an Executive Dean in the third largest community college system in the United States, as a Senior Executive of The Toro Company (NYSE:TTC) and CEO and Founder of several award winning corporations, including one named to the INC 500 in 1990. In 1990, Dr. Love was named one of the “Top 50 Entrepreneurs” in North America by Inc. Magazine, the Young Entrepreneur’s Organization, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Love is the creator of the Would Jesus Discriminate? campaign and author of a book by the same name.
Learn more about Cindi