The Original 17 Step Journey: Introduction


"You are invited to Join us on the Journey…"

My nonviolent response to the Tinky Winky Wars ("Bashing Jerry Falwell Hurts Our Cause") set loose an Internet avalanche of anger. A lot of folks hate Mr. Falwell. Who can blame them? His anti-homosexual rhetoric leads to wasted lives, ruined relationships, and broken families.

I wasn’t defending Jerry. Like you, I want to stem his flow of toxic words and anti-homosexual political actions. We all want this war to end, and we’re all doing what we know to help end it, but something isn’t working.

While our committed activists work to win political and legal battles on our behalf, no one seems able to change the minds and hearts of those who wage this war against us. I’m afraid most have quit trying.

Could it be that the anti-homosexual campaign of Jerry Falwell and the others has become as important to us as "the threat" of our imaginary "gay agenda" is to them? Since institutions need "enemies" to survive, is it possible that we use Jerry to raise funds and mobilize volunteers like Jerry uses us without even realizing that we’re doing it?

If Jerry Falwell suddenly understood that we are God’s children, too, if he stopped bashing us, would it help or hurt our fund-raising efforts? Would his direct-mail appeals weaken if he ever changed his mind about us?

In the meantime, are we both trapped in a rather impolite standoff, bashing each other in provocative sound bites without realizing that we’re only getting louder and not more effective? I’m guilty of it. If our members see me in the papers or on television, they are confident that I am out there doing my job and they send in donations to help me keep doing it.

Every activist I know is sincere in this effort to gain more air time and more column inches. But so is Jerry Falwell. He gets his by "outing" Tinky Winky. We get ours by treating Jerry like the village idiot. He holds his press conferences. We hold ours. He organizes his marches and rallies. We organize ours. Protest becomes a way of life. Bashing becomes an art form.

In the meantime, no one is listening to the other. We are convinced that Jerry has chosen to be "evil." He thinks the same of us. We use every tinky winky thing to escalate (not resolve) the conflict. How can we end this war of words? What might happen if we don’t?

During the 1960s, Dr. King’s call to "soul force" was shouted down by cries for "black power." Stokely Carmichael grew impatient with Martin’s nonviolent method and called for a black revolution. "We have no alternative," he said, "but to use armed violence."

Anger and frustration boiled over into civil war in our streets. Race riots raged across the country. Watts burned. Heroes died: Medger Evers, Jack Kennedy, Chaney, Schwerner, and Goodman, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy. Violence prevailed.

At that moment when violence seemed the only way, our community began this new era in the age-old struggle for "gay rights." On June 28, 1969, during a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a handful of angry transvestites shrieked, shoved, and shouldered their way into a well-deserved place in our community’s history.

For almost thirty years we have honored these sheroes for fighting back with angry hearts and clenched fists. Without forgetting our debt of gratitude to those who went before, is it possible that these times call for a different way?

Here’s where Gandhi and King come in. Gandhi developed and refined his Satyagraha or "soul force" principles while leading justice movements in South Africa (1893-1915) and India (1915-1948). Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. discovered Gandhi’s "soul force" rules and used them to shape his own nonviolent civil rights movement in America (1955-1968).

"While the Montgomery boycott was going on," King writes, "India’s Gandhi was our guiding light…Nonviolent resistance emerged as the technique of the movement, while love stood as the regulating ideal." Dr. King believed that Jesus and the Jewish prophets furnished the spirit and motivation, while Gandhi furnished the method.

How would our civil rights movement be different if we rediscovered and applied those "soul force" principles in our response to Jerry Falwell (and the others)? What might happen if we began by seeing Jerry as a "fallen brother", a victim of misinformation as we have been? (Even if we have to do it by faith.)

"Soul force" suggests that our task is not to demonize, defeat, or destroy Jerry but to help him see the truth without committing violence against him "with our tongues, our fists, or even in our hearts." "Soul force" says we cannot give up on Jerry, that giving up on him would be an act of violence. "Soul force" says we must not question Jerry’s motives either, because sincere or insincere, raising his motives (or ours) only clouds the issue. But "soul force" also demands that we take seriously Jerry’s ignorance and superstition and that we do everything in our power short of violence to keep him from victimizing others.

At the heart of "soul force" is this rule: Peaceful "negotiations" to reconcile with our adversary must always precede nonviolent "direct actions" to persuade him. We’ve tried to negotiate with Jerry, but he has chosen to ignore the scientific, historic, personal, and even the biblical evidences that counter his false and inflammatory rhetoric.

Now, it is time to launch a nonviolent "direct action" campaign that will show Jerry and the nation that we are genuinely committed to our cause and willing to take on voluntary, redemptive suffering to achieve it.

Although I am inspired by our parades and moved by our rallies, they are not the kinds of "direct actions" that change the minds and hearts of those who fear and hate us. Think about Gandhi’s 245 mile march to the sea or King’s 383 day bus boycott in Montgomery. Friends and enemies alike were deeply moved by their voluntary suffering. "Soul force" calls us to this far more difficult and yet far more powerful way.

If you saw the Academy Award winning "Gandhi" you know about his commitment to nonviolence. You know, too, that Dr. King applied Gandhi’s ideas to his own nonviolent struggle for civil rights. But have you ever taken their "soul force" principles seriously yourself?

We have founded Soulforce, Inc. (a nonprofit corporation) to gather together a Network of Soulforce Friends determined to use the principles of nonviolence to change the minds and hearts of Jerry Falwell and our other religious adversaries. This seventeen-step "Journey into Soulforce" is just one of the projects we have undertaken to accomplish that goal.

During the "Journey…" I will introduce you to people who actually worked with Gandhi and King. I will attempt to share and apply their principles in designing a powerful direct action against Jerry Falwell’s anti-homosexual campaign. If a plan is generated from our consensus, we will organize and train to carry out that "direct action" together. If we don’t come up with a plan, we will at least have learned enough about "soul force" to apply the principles where we live. Gandhi only asks us to take the first step. Open your hearts to "soul force", he says, and the Spirit of Truth and Justice will lead you the rest of the way.

We’re looking for just a handful of people who will consider seriously the "soul force" guidelines for renewing our spirits and reconciling with our "enemies." That handful of people, committed to truth, love (nonviolence), and voluntary redemptive suffering, could make an important difference.

By the way, if you agree with Jerry that homosexuals are sick and sinful, you can join us, too. "Soul force" is a way to bring understanding between adversaries. It is a safe place to be while we are working out our differences. You’ll get a rare opportunity to see and hear exactly what Jerry is saying about homosexuals (not just about Tinky Winky). And you’ll hear our replies based on the latest scientific, historic, personal, and even biblical evidences. Wherever you are on your journey to Truth, you are welcome!

NEXT: Getting Ready For A Journey Into Soulforce

Mel White and Gary Nixon, Partners in Soulforce, Inc.
P.O. Box 4467, Laguna Beach, CA. 92652.
Fax: (949) 455-0959