Queer Counter-Offensive: Our Prayer for the NRB

In February 2016, our people in Nashville organized a counter-worship service in public opposition the National Religious Broadcasters’ Christian communicators’ conference, Proclaim 16. I attended with two-dozen or so people; we snuck banners into the NRB’s worship service sat and listened, one ear to the violent messaging and theology of the NRB, the other ear to our lead organizers who would tell us when to rise and disrupt. As we slowly marched out singing as loud as our spirits would carry -- in full performance and revelry, Soulforce style -- we made our way to the foyer of the conference, where executives and security were awaiting our arrival. We knew that the NRB conference organizers, with wide stances and furrowed brows, wanted us to just disappear. In the heat of the words flying at us from officials to leave the premises, and our people arguing for us to have “just a moment to pray,” I heard Rev. Alba Onofrio take a sharp breath and begin to speak: “God of Love, God of Conviction, God of Peace-” The commotion quieted. I was nervous, but I softly smiled. Who would dare interrupt a public prayer? “We come before You tonight, oh God, remembering Leviticus 19:16 that says that we are not allowed to stand idly by. We are not allowed to be silent, when there are people among us—Christians among us—who put our neighbors’ lives in danger. They put our lives in danger. Written in that great book that is so lauded by these people as to have a multi-million dollar museum being built as we speak near our nation’s political capital buildings in Washington, DC. We ask, oh God, that the believers in that book who are worshipping here tonight, those who claim that book as life and truth and the authoritative word, we ask You to open their eyes, oh God, that they may see Leviticus 19:16 as a command from their God to right now, to right here tonight. “God, you know our suffering. You are with us as our Black and brown bodies are being torn apart, limb by limb, by homophobia, by transphobia, by Christian supremacy. You are with our brothers and sisters as they are dying in the streets of this land and lands across the Global South because of the toxic, poisonous, death-dealing messages of Christian fundamentalism that are coming out of the broadcasters in the NRB under the guise of missionizing and saving souls. But what of our bodies, oh God?! Are they not precious? Do they not also deserve saving?” Many more executives had arrived now, alongside journalists snapping pictures, and a few more dissenters to our action. Our circle remained steadfast. “We are here, oh God, we are here with these missionizers. We are here and we are praying for these brothers and sisters in Christ. We are here as you have called to speak for Your truth, for the good news of life abundant, for whole bodies and whole spirits. Not some of us, Lord, but all of us. We claim Your love, Your mandate for life and love for ALL of us. “We will not stay silent. We will not sit idly by. We know that You, our God, call us to speak forward into this moment, to be present in the suffering of now, and to hold those who deal in death in Your name to account. In fervent, loving conviction—just as is stated in the ethics of the NRB that we should bring our conflict to each other directly—we are here and we say, “NO! STOP YOUR SINFUL WAYS! Our brown and black bodies, our Queer bodies, our soul-full bodies are dying. Their lifeless bodies are on your altar and our blood is dripping from your hands, broadcasters of the NRB.” Our people clearly felt this true in their bones. I could hear them purse their lips and say “amen”. We continued on. “Oh Creator, Giver of Life, we are grateful for Your presence here among us tonight. We are grateful for the courage of these gathered here in this circle. Their courage like many of the prophets who faced almost certain persecution, almost certain death, almost certain removal by police and other such principalities, akin to what we face tonight. Many of the prophets were disrupted and rejected, but their courage and the courage of those in this circle is a testament to their faith in You, in Your power to effect real change, in Your call to us to speak truth to power--” “ABOMINATION!” we heard intermittently from a man arrived on the scene, looming over the frame of a young, brown trans person. Robles bristled at his presence. “YOU ARE AN ABOMINATION UNTO THE LORD! ABOMINATION! ABOMINATION!” “That’s enough.” Ron, a young Black man, bigger and taller than most of the group, broke the circle beside me, moved through our group, straight up to the white-skinned heckler, and slowly turned his back to him. He grabbed Robles’s hand and bowed his head again in prayer. The heckler, intimidated, was quieted for the moment. My heart skipped a beat, and Rev. Alba quickly returned to the task at hand. “We are grateful for the progress our country has made legally, but God, we say 'NO!' to the exportation of racism, homophobia, and transphobia based-in so-called Christianity. We see that wolf in sheep’s clothing, that evil being cloaked as Your good and holy word, we feel it in our bones, in our spirits, and we will not sit idly by while our people are being killed in Your name.” “We celebrate your light on us, oh God. And we rejoice that You also created darkness, and dark bodies, and queer bodies, and queer desire. Even while we suffer, we sing, we dance, we celebrate tonight, in the knowing that You love us, oh Creator. You love us in our fullness, in our authenticity, alone, and in our Queer families.” “And we beg. We beg for the mercy and forgiveness of the souls of those who are killing us, for they will certainly need it. For it is by the same bloody law that they condemn us that they will certainly be condemned. We pray for them oh God, and we are here tonight to call them into Christian account. Police officers began to pace our circle. “Let’s go,” they insisted, as the prayer flowed over our bodies like a protective salve. “We say to you, NRB broadcasters, in the name of the Living God, ‘We love you. We will pray for you without ceasing as is the call of our God that tells us, we must, we must, we MUST hold each other accountable, because we will be held accountable for the lives of our brothers and sisters.’ May our words reach their ears, oh Lord, before Your sword of justice comes swiftly into judgement of those who bring death unto Your precious children. May they change their sinful ways, oh God, we pray.” “May we all walk in your ways of love, oh God, doing what is just and what is right—not only for ourselves, but also for our neighbors, that we might all be able call all of ourselves, all of our bodies and all of our beings, into this place to be with You. “In the holiest Name, in the Name that has many names which all point us to Love, we pray, Amen.”

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Soulforce works to end the political and religious oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex people through relentless nonviolent resistance.

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