Editors note: Brian Adkins, a 2010 Equality Rider, composed this note to his fellow Equality Riders. We reprint it here with his permission.
I joined the 2010 Soulforce Equality Ride not because I am queer, but because I am a Christian. I wanted to be a part of the dialog around the intersection of faith and sexuality and justice. Along the way, I have seen the best and the worst of Christianity. I have seen love beautifully and unconditionally expressed, and I have heard oppression called love. I have at times expressed my own truth eloquently, but more often I have fumbled with it clumsily like the lyrics to a song I have never heard before. My truth is a song still being written.
As I prepare to leave this beloved community, I have some parting words for my fellow Riders and I fear that if I don’t speak them they will kindle in my bones like the fires of my faith and I will be consumed. And the grief of departure should not should not have to contend with the regret of words unspoken. So here they are:
Three thousand years ago a prophet, Ezekiel, stood in a valley full of bones. He stood looking at the remnants of things that once lived but now lay desolate and dry. There God spoke to Ezekiel saying, “Can these bones live?” And Ezekiel said, “Only you know, God.” And God said, “Prophesy to these bones and say, ‘Hear the word of [love.]” And Ezekiel spoke and a great rattling was heard in the valley, as bone connected to bone, and muscle and sinew tangled into forms covered with flesh. And Ezekiel spoke again and called the wind, “Come forth from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain that they may live.” And life returned, where only death had been.
To me, these bones represent the spirits of queer people who have lost their hope. Those who have beaten down by the church and Christians, and who have been told they are unloved and unlovable. But you, dear prophets, have heard the rattling and your voices have called the wind, and your eyes have seen hope restored where hope was lacking.
You are prophets.
Like other prophets, many of you have known no honor among those who know you the best, even your families. You have been called heretics and sinners and blasphemers, for claiming God’s love and grace and affirmation. And like other prophets you have had to learn the awkward dance of shaking the dust off your feet when your message is not received. You have danced beautifully across this country, and it has been my sincere pleasure to learn by watching your precious feet.
You are prophets. You have not been called to idly warm your hands at a safe distance from the blazing inferno of oppression. You have instead been called to venture into the flames and rescue those being burned at the stake. Even when many of you yourselves bear the marks and ashes of your own stakes.
You have stood in uncomfortable places and hostile spaces. You have been missionaries to the missionaries. Your message never faltered, nor was it diluted or drowned out by the hatespeech of those who tried to bludgeon you with their ancient books. You have spoken truth as a beautiful melody, in places where music was outlawed.
You are prophets. And to be a prophet is not a temporary calling. It is until death. I know that you will spend your lives in valleys of dry bones – and you will continue to speak truth to power until your own breath is gone. Take courage for the journey ahead. I leave you with the words of God I spoke to you in this very room eight weeks ago:
“You are mine. When you pass through waters, I will be with you; and through rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire you will not be burned; not even the flame will kindle upon you. God has put her words in your mouth, and covered you with the shadow of her hand, saying, ‘You are my people.’”
Riders, prophets, thank you for what you have been to me. I couldn’t love you more.