Smite Me Oh Mighty Smiter!

So last week’s blog post got a bit of attention to say in the least. Just 24 hours after posting “Jesus and I aren’t on Speaking Terms” I got 82 shares on Facebook, and over 200 views. I am so glad that my project is reaching so many people and hopefully I can use this wide audience to make a difference. That being said, I also received some…interesting feedback as well. As I’ve probably stated before, I went into this project knowing full and well that it was definitely going to offend a large group of people (even though that is not my intention) and that I might lose some friends along the way. What I did not expect was for so many people to message me saying I could be saved. Those were fun emails to read. Other than our lord and savor himself trying to save me in the form of his followers, I also had some rather irate people message me.

Maybe I did not make it clear enough in my first post, that this project is being used to address “radical religious people.” Maybe that isn’t the right term? But I honestly can’t think of another way to categorize people who use religion as a weapon of hate and discrimination. Now, I’m not saying that if you don’t agree with homosexuality, you are a radically religious person. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions – that’s your God-given right (see what I did there?). But if you do use religion to actively pursue the LGBTQ community in a discriminatory or intolerant way (i.e. hate mail, offensive and unnecessary hate speech, using terms like “disgusting” when referring to us), THAT is when I categorize you into the radical sect of religion

Let me make myself very clear, I believe everyone and I do mean everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and is entitled to express those opinions. But when those opinions are expressed in a way that spreads revulsion and loathing against those whose sexual practices are different from their own, it becomes unacceptable in my book.

In case this concept is still unclear to some people out there, I’m going to try my best to provide some comparative examples and see if that helps. I had the youth minister from last week’s blog…actually message me (I didn’t think he would find the blog…whoops) and he was arguing that “just because something offends you doesn’t mean you should eradicate it from your view.” This is true; you should expose yourself to varying opinions. It helps to make you a more well-rounded person; it often leads to research or discussions, or makes you feel even more strongly about your opinion. However, there are some things that, when they become personally offensive, no longer need to be shared. For example:

I have lots of friends that post pro-life statuses on Facebook. I always enjoying reading these and trying to better educate myself in opposing views. It only stops becoming enjoyable to read when they throw all rational argument out the window and start referring to acts, such as abortion, as “abominable.” You cannot talk about an issue and use emotional statements to “validate” your argument when you are providing no actual context or research other than your personal disdain.

Here is another example I’ve been trying to tell people when they tell me that I need to be more accepting of other people’s views.

I do not believe people should be allowed to own guns. I’m not sure how I came to this conclusion other than hearing the horror stories of children finding firearms and the resulting accidents that ensue. But anyway, that is beside the point. I don’t believe anyone should be allowed to own a firearm in their home. Now when I see people posting statuses on Facebook about it being their basic amendment right to own a gun I silently disagree, read the post, and move on. I would never dream of posting things on their status about how I think they are “wrong” or need to be “changed”…so why do religious people whom condemn homosexuality or other LGBTQ lifestyles feel like it is ok for them to do so?

You are allowed to have your opinions, and you are even allowed to start discussions—I welcome that. What you are not entitled to do is chase after and antagonize another person based on their lifestyle not fitting into your idea of what is “right.”

I know what some of you are probably thinking…”Jeez Emily, you are being super hypocritical right now.” I recognize that I am sitting here calling out Christians for “calling out” LGBTQ people. But there is a large difference between calling someone out for hate speech, and bashing someone based on their lifestyle.There is also a large difference between freedom of speech and oppression. I’m not telling radical Christians that they are going to hell or that they are abominations. I’m telling them that their actions are destructive and it needs to stop.

I mean just think about how your actions/speech affects us. What if the norm in the country was to be LGBTQ. Imagine having to “come out” being straight, imagine being terrified of rejection, imagine monitoring every word you say in fear that you might offend someone by talking about your lifestyle. Imagine being scared of LGBTQ people and what they might say, think, or do to you. THAT is what we go through every day. So do you think saying hateful things about us is going to allow us to be more accepting of you, your beliefs, or religion? No. It is going to turn us away. This includes telling us that our lifestyle is a sin, that we can be saved, that we can change, and that’s it’s a choice. We don’t choose to be gay, just like you don’t choose to be straight.

If “being gay is a choice,” why would anyone choose to live a harder life than they need to?

Telling someone that is LGBTQ that they can change is just like telling someone with brown eyes that if they pray hard enough they can change their eye color to blue. It is just as much a part of our DNA as eye color is to you.

Also because being gay is not a choice, it is not a sin.  Sins include voluntary acts like “cheating on a spouse” and “stealing”…you don’t choose to be gay. It’s not like we wake up one morning and says “hmm, I think I’ll try being gay today.” It is ingrained into our DNA, it is no choice, it is biological. You can’t force yourself to find a certain gender sexually attractive. That would be like me telling a straight person to just “Try being gay. It’s choice.” Either you are attracted to someone’s gender or you’re not, or maybe you are not attracted to gender at all. Yes, you can experiment and discover that you may not be attracted to the gender you thought you were, and that’s great. But once you have discovered whom you are attracted to, it is impossible to change that; and can even be harmful if you try.¹

And I know what some people will say, “But what about the gays that found Jesus and are no longer queer?” You can lie to yourselves, you can cover up your preferred gender of sexual partner, but you will never truly be who you are if you are hiding behind a blanket of religious conformity. And I don’t know, maybe those people really were just confused and thought they were LGBTQ, but later realized otherwise, and thats OK. But you have to realize this is not due to religious revelations. And you also have to realize that this makes up about 1% of LGBTQ people. So just because a neighbor told you it happened to a friend of a friend, doesn’t mean it will happen to us.

And this is where some people might argue, “Well I’m not trying to change you, I’m trying to save you.” Ummmm, did I ask for help? I don’t think so. The day I say, “I need to be saved from homosexuality by the powers of Jesus,” or am wearing a life jacket and blowing an emergency whistle…that’s the day you can offer to save me. Until then…Bye!

Okay, back on topic. So yes, I received a bunch of hate mail, some nasty comments on Facebook, some people offering to save me, and some angered friends who are trying to defend their actions. What I have not received yet is burning cross in my front yard, so I’m still looking forward to that one. BTW If I go missing, search through my inbox and interrogate those people first. And if I die in fiery freak car accident just blame it on Jesus smiting me for this project.

Along with the negative feedback I actually got an amazing amount of positivity and support sent my way. Friends that I thought would be mad or offended actually reached out to me saying things like they “understood where my aggression was coming from,” and that I’m “not an asshole.” ←which is still questionable. I also got positive feedback from some Christians on the Mary Wash campus who offered an open hand to me, actually proposing we meet up so that they can “prove there are loving, supportive, and accepting Christians out there.”

This was so sweet, and I actually met up with them, but it also had me concerned. As I’ve tried to make it so clear in this blog, I am try desperately to make people understand that I realize there is a huge difference between the Christians who condemn homosexuality and those who are accepting of everyone, no matter the sexual orientation.

These interactions with the campus Christians, the anonymous haters, and my own friends lead me to develop the concept for my “commercial” I shot this weekend.

I am also enrolled in another Digital Studies class that is called “Visual Rhetoric.” Our assignment in this class for this week involved developing a “visual campaign.” Something visual that people could look at and through their viewing be persuaded on an issue. I figured since I am investing so much time this semester in this LGBTQ vs. Religion documentary, I could use the same concept for my other, visual rhetoric, class. As I stated above, I was inspired to allow my viewers to know I do understand there is a clear distinction between the two types of Christians. But, I also wanted to use this project not only to make that distinction but also to inspire change.

I loved receiving all the feedback on my blog and especially the messages from the “accepting Christians” who said they were in full support. But it got me thinking, how supportive would they be in the realm of the real world? Yes, it was so beautiful that they were private messaging me their support, but I needed to use this commercial to say, “Spread that support visibly!” If the radical Christians are so vocal about their opinions, why don’t the supportive Christians be equally as vocal?

I came to the conclusion that the reason I was (and still over-coming) hating religion so violently was because all I was ever hearing was the voice of the LGBTQ condemning religious people. I rarely, if ever saw someone on Facebook say, “I’m a Christian and I stand with the LGBT community.” But I saw dozens of instances of intolerant Christians saying things like, “The country is going to hell,” and “It’s just not right,” when referring to things such as the Supreme Court ruling.

Maybe this is why there is such a rift between the LGBTQ and religious communities? Because all we are ever hearing is the hatred coming from the intolerant people, because they have the loudest voice.

I wanted to get this concept across in the commercial and perhaps inspire some Christians, like the ones appearing in this video, to stand up for tolerance and acceptance. The campus Christians who messaged me stating their support actually agreed to film this commercial with me, in hopes of inspiring others to follow there actions and especially in hopes of showing LGBTQ people that not all Christians are the same.

Also I wanted to point out before someone else does, I don’t just believe that the silence of the supportive Christians is 100% or even 50% of the reason LGBTQ people only picture condemning spiritual individuals when thinking of religion. I think everyone needs to have a louder voice. Including my own family and friends.

My mom tells me all the time that she sees people posting nasty stuff on Facebook about LGBTQ people, and when I ask how she responded to them, she always says something along the lines of “Oh, well…I’m not trying to start an argument.” But, why not?! Think about it this way. If someone was relentlessly posting fat-shaming content on their blogs, I bet you almost everyone would eventually speak up (in the form of online commenting) and tell them what they were doing was tasteless and wrong. So why when I replace “fat-shaming” with “homophobia” is it any different?

Just think about that the next time you ignore a chauvinistic post.

Another reason I chose to produce the video this way is because I believe that it is near impossible to persuade people of a certain mindset to change their views. This is even truer when the person trying to change them is coming from the other side of the argument. But if someone from their own belief system, someone from their own religion was to question their actions, it might make them reconsider. So having Christians question Christians on their opinions seemed like it would be a little more powerful than just having LGBT students talking about how radical Christians need to change.

Other than filming this commercial this weekend, I also continued interviewing LGBTQ people on their life experience being queer, and their interactions with religion. I’m using the green screen room at school to conduct all the interviews and I also used it to shoot the commercial. It allows me to manipulate the background, lighting, and sound very easily. Not to mention the room contains the highest quality cameras on campus.

Every single LGBTQ person I have interviewed (there have been around 20 so far) has had something emotionally moving to say. But something one girl said this weekend really resonated with me…

I had a pan-sexual I interviewed this weekend say something powerful that stuck with me. She said something along the lines of, “Every baby is born straight. It’s not that they are actually ‘born straight’ but every one assumes when a child leaves the womb that they are heterosexual.”

Even being from the rainbow community, I had never thought about this before. And it’s so true. I’m a lesbian and when I picture my little future daughters growing up I still automatically picture them being straight. WTF is wrong with me?!

So I’m leaving you with this to think about this week:

That is another important aspect that needs to be changed. We need to grow up in a society where it is not expected that a child will be one sexuality or another. We need to stop teaching sex-ED strictly heteronormatively, we need to stop asking little girls if they have “boyfriends” or asking little boys if they have “girlfriends.” We need to start a new generation of parents who don’t persuade the sexuality of their child. And we need to start encouraging exploration of other sexualities at a young age so that when some of them do end up discovering they are not heterosexual, they don’t feel so crappy about it.

Rant over.

Back to the bigger picture…

I’m hoping that this blog post helped clear the confusion. It is not in my nature to try to cover up what I initially say with excuses. But it is my job with this project to make my intentions very clear. Until next week!