The Original 17 Step Journey: Step 13

With the Rev. Dr. Mel White
Taking Our First Steps Towards Lynchburg

[From an email I received February 27, 1999]
"Please, Mel, just shut up and go away. Take your "soul-force", goody-two-shoes, peacenick Gandhi crap with you when you go. That Gandhi stuff would NOT have worked at Stonewall. Please be quiet, and give our ears a rest…"

Since receiving this email, the writer and I have become (on-line) friends. The Soulforce Guidelines really work, not just in confrontations with our adversaries, but in our daily lives and even on the Net. Soulforce nonviolence is not a tactic. It is a way of life.

However, the writer’s first, passionate email is worth considering more seriously. Do you agree with the writer that this "Gandhi stuff would NOT have worked at Stonewall" and probably won’t work with Jerry Falwell or the other primary sources of the toxic rhetoric?

Today’s file ends with nine mind-boggling anti-homosexual UNTRUTHS by Jerry Falwell and one hard question for you. Will you be a sideline observer or a frontline activist in this Soulforce action to change the mind and heart of Jerry Falwell? You can join those who ridicule and condemn Jerry in this endless sound-bite war or you can do something to help end his flow of poison.

Gandhi and King tell us that "doing justice" requires two primary steps:

First, we NEGOTIATE with our adversary.

But, if our adversary refuses to negotiate seriously then…

Second, we take DIRECT ACTION(S) to convince our adversary that we are sincere and that we will not go away until justice is done.

Are you willing even to consider investing a piece of your life in our Soulforce attempt to end the endless flow of anti-homosexual information that leads to suffering and death? I’ve taken a lot of ridicule for suggesting this Soulforce Journey to Lynchburg. But I am convinced it’s worth a try.

I am going to Lynchburg FOR JERRY’S SAKE.
He is my brother and his UNTRUTHS are ruining the lives of God’s innocent GLBT children. Jesus warned his disciples that it would be better to have a stone tied to around their necks and be drowned in the sea than "to offend one of the least of these little ones." Jerry’s soul is at stake. Loving my enemy means refusing to give up on him for his soul’s sake and for mine.

I’m going to Lynchburg FOR MY OWN SOUL’S SAKE.
If I saw a terrorist pouring poison into the city’s water supply and did nothing, my soul would shrivel and I would carry that guilt to my grave. Every time I’ve risked even a small amount of time and energy to do justice, my soul has been enriched and renewed (even when I "failed"). Gandhi and King remind us that we are called by our Creator to do justice and that we will never know who we are or why until we try.

I going to Lynchburg FOR THE SAKE OF MY BISEXUAL, TRANSEXUAL, GAY, AND LESBIAN sisters and brothers.
Jerry is poisoning the minds and hearts of our own people. As a result, they live in dark, lonely closets because they half believe his UNTRUTH that they are "sick" and "sinful." We who know the TRUTH have tremendous power to set free the captives of UNTRUTH. Whether Jerry is convinced or not, our closeted sisters and brothers peeking through the cracks in their closet doors will see and hear our TRUTH through the print, tv and radio reporters who will cover our Journey. And seeing us living and loving freely will help set them free.

Every year, Jerry and the others send millions of direct mail poison pieces into the homes and churches of the U.S. and Canada. They are confusing the nations and turning friends and neighbors against us. Answering Jerry’s UNTRUTH is answering them all. At this moment, Jerry is the most visible. Why not start with Jerry?

They are angry at Falwell, Robertson, Dobson and others who condemn them endlessly with UNTRUTH. They see religion as the enemy and they confuse "faith" with "bad religion." I want our sisters and brothers to see people of faith, like the Revs. Creech and Dell, like you and like me, who take great personal and professional risks on behalf of God’s GLBT children. It just might inspire them to begin their faith journeys once again.

Whatever we do, I’m hoping it will ATTRACT THE MEDIA and give us a rare chance to answer Jerry’s false charges publicly.
All too often the media decide to show us at our pride marches in leather thongs and feather boas. In Lynchburg, the media will see us in a different way. We are sexual, but we are more. We are spiritual and we are going to Lynchburg to reclaim our spiritual rights.

(These were the words I wrote then…)
I don’t know. We will decide that together. We may even decide NOT to go to Lynchburg, that we can help change Jerry even more effectively from some other place. But our overall goal is simple. With the world looking on, we want Jerry to hear our TRUTH and to NEGOTIATE an end to his UNTRUTH. Gandhi and King give us very helpful guidelines. (Now, there is a carefully constructed schedule for the events in Lynchburg, Oct. 22-24. Contact us for information if you don’t have it already).


  1. Before any negotiations begin, I will investigate my opponent’s position carefully, trying to understand exactly what my opponent is saying or doing and why my opponent is saying or doing it. I will not attack on the basis of rumor or accusation. I will go to the source.
  2. I will confront my opponent’s words and/or actions that lead to suffering on the basis of truth as I understand it (without resorting to half-truth, exaggerations, unsubstantiated claims, or lies of my own.)
  3. I will confront my opponent’s words and/or actions lovingly, without resorting to physical, spiritual, or psychological violence.
  4. I will confront my opponent’s words/actions relentlessly, refusing to give up or to compromise my truth (or any portion of it) unless my opponent proves me wrong. In that case, I will admit my error gratefully, seek my opponent’s forgiveness, and if all is resolved, end the confrontation in peace.
  5. Throughout our negotiations I will work to earn my opponent’s trust and friendship.
  6. I will refuse to break off our negotiations until we have reached a third position that is acceptable to us both.
  7. I will question the ideas that lead to suffering. I will not question the motive or the integrity of the person who holds those ideas.
  8. If my opponent and I cannot reach an acceptable third position, I will ask my opponent to choose with me a neutral, third party, respected by us both to arbitrate our differences.
  9. If my opponents breaks off negotiations, refuses to arbitrate, or maintains negotiations to stall or end our confrontation, I will have no other option but to take direct action against them.

Putting out Fires and Stopping the Arsonists
At this moment, Jerry and our other adversaries seem obsessed with their anti-homosexual campaign. In response to the rhetoric, laws are created to deny us our rights and protections. State constitutions are amended to discriminate against us. Petitions are circulated to place anti-homosexual measures on local and statewide ballots. Harassment and hate follow quickly.

Thankfully, we have local, state, and national organizations working to defeat the anti-homosexual measures and to lobby for our civil rights. We need to support our activists with time and money. However, most activists are so busy putting out the fires lit by our adversaries that there is little time or energy left to work on stopping the arsonists. The "arsonists" (those primary sources of the anti-homosexual rhetoric) are primarily religious leaders (Catholic and Protestant alike). Jerry Falwell is at the top of that list. Changing their minds and hearts is the number one goal of Soulforce, Inc. Will you consider joining us?

Before you answer today’s question, read the nine example of Jerry’s anti-homosexual rhetoric below. I’ve selected one of Jerry quotes from each year of this last decade. Then picture Jerry’s UNTRUTHS flooding millions of homes through letters, pamphlets, books, radio and TV.

QUESTION: Will you help us stop the flood of poison into the minds and hearts of the nations? [Before you answer, read the sample of Jerry’s UNTRUTHS below.]

If you say "YES" how much TIME would you take off from work or school or retirement to help stop Jerry’s rhetoric? (A day? a week? a month? as long as it takes?)

How much MONEY would you spend to help stop Jerry’s rhetoric? ($10? $100? $1,000? as much as it takes?)

How much PERSONAL RISK would you take to help stop Jerry’s rhetoric? (Did you send a letter to Jerry with your photo? Would you send it now? Would you come out of the closet? Would you risk your job? Your tenure? Your reputation? Your relationships with friends or family? Would you risk your life?)

Gandhi and King promise us that "doing justice" will renew your spirit and transform your society? But "doing justice" may require sacrifice. Are you willing to take that risk?

Now, before you answer, read these nine short quotes from Jerry Falwell.


"God wiped them [Sodom and Gomorrah] clean from the face of the earth! These two Old Testament cities were so filled with homosexuality and perversion that they were utterly destroyed…Will our nation face a similar fate because God-fearing moral people failed to stop homosexuality from becoming an accepted lifestyle in our churches, schools and public places?" Jerry Falwell, 1991

[If homosexuals are allowed in the military] "Expect a breakdown in morale as heterosexual men and women are forced to share barracks and showers with openly homosexual persons. Expect a dramatic rise in AIDS cases among military personnel and a subsequent jump in the taxpayer-financed military health care price tag." Falwell 1992

[Homosexuals] "…have a godless, humanistic scheme for our nation – a plan which will destroy America’s traditional moral values…Complete elimination of God and Christianity from American society is being designed right now…[Join with me] "…in a Declaration of War against the forces of Satan that have gripped our nation." Falwell 1993

"There is no middle ground. For Christians, there can be no peaceful coexistence with those Sodomites whom God has given over to a reprobate mind." Jerry Falwell est. 1994

"Gay rights legislation may soon force churches, Christian schools, organizations, and businesses – in defiance of their beliefs – to hire a quota of homosexuals." Falwell 1995

"These [homosexual] deviants seek no less than total control and influence in society, politics, our schools and in our exercise of free speech and religious freedom." Falwell 1996

"My friend, we must put a stop to this radical Gay Agenda – and tell President Clinton that God-fearing Americans will no longer stand for the destruction of Morality and Religion in our Country." Jerry Falwell 1997

The death of Matthew Shepard was "…senseless and tragic. My heart goes out to the families left behind…I will never condone violence or hatred against another man… [But] "…homosexuality is a sin. It is against God’s plan. As long as I am able, I will speak out against this wicked, perverse lifestyle." Jerry Falwell 1998

"When homosexuality was celebrated…something important died in America…something crucial to the American soul fell silent…[Homosexuals don’t care] "that the America they’re demanding is …a sewer of moral filth…an environment that is incredibly dangerous to our children…a culture that despises Christian faith and morality…" Jerry Falwell 1999

Reading these nine short samples of the rhetoric should inspire you again to realize its power to destroy. But Soulforce promises us an even greater power, the power to set free. I’m so glad and grateful you are with us on this Journey.


Love to you all

NEXT: Step 14

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