The Original 17 Step Journey: Step 6

With the Rev. Dr. Mel White

The saddest question of them all
After speaking to a student assembly at Texas A&M, I joined a handful of GLBT students and their friends at a reception. As the party wound down, I saw a young man standing in the shadows obviously waiting to talk to me. He was trembling.

"Dr. White," he whispered, "how can you be sure that God loves you?" It was his way of asking how could I accept my homosexuality as a gift from God when the significant people in his life had warned him that homosexuality was a sickness and a sin.

For the past five years our young ones have waited in the shadows after every lecture, every workshop, every debate to ask me that same question. "How can I be sure that God loves homosexuals, too?" It’s a question asked by outcasts through the ages.

"Untouchables" asked Gandhi, "How can you be sure that God loves us, too?"

"Negroes" asked Dr. King, "How can you be sure that God loves us, too?"

Now "lesbians," "gays," "bisexuals," and "transgenders" are asking "How can you be sure that God loves us, too?"

What causes outcasts to ask this tragic question? Because someone (like Jerry Falwell) tells them over and over that God does NOT love them as they are. It’s a lie but as Hitler’s Propaganda Minister said, "Tell people a lie long enough and they will believe it."

"Living under slavery," Dr. King explains, "many Negroes came to the point of losing faith in themselves. They came to feel that they were less than human. The great tragedy of physical slavery was that it led to mental slavery." (1)

The "Aggie" freshman, cowering in his closet, was in danger of becoming a mental slave to a tragic Untruth, a crippled soul, a dying spirit. I should know. I spent years cowering in my own closet. I’m convinced that the "soul force" principles can help to set us free.

Several have written me asking why I would "waste" this "soul force" journey on Falwell (and on the other primary contemporary sources of "the lie") when I could focus our energy on changing laws and winning elections. I understand their doubts.

Gary and I are proud and paying members of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, The SLDN, and the HRC. We must support our national, state, and local organizations that work to defend us in the legislatures and the courts.

But all those "anti-gay" measures that threaten to consume us are fires started by "the lie" and someone has to take on the arsonist’s lies or the fires will never go out.

That freshman "Aggie" with his tear-filled eyes stood on the brink of a great decision. Would he become a permanent victim of the misinformation or would he accept his sexual orientation as another of God’s gifts and get on with his life?

Biblical evidence: I spent an hour with the young man explaining that the biblical authors knew nothing and say nothing about sexual orientation as we know it today. There isn’t even a word for homosexuality in Hebrew or in Greek. And if it really does condemn us to death, it also condemns children who sass their parents and gourmands who eat prawns.

Historic evidence: I reviewed the exciting history of the contributions made by sexual minorities through the ages from Sappho to Ellen Degeneres.

Psychological and medical evidence: I quoted evidence from the APA that is "as natural to be homosexual as it is to be left-handed." I shared the AMA view that anyone who tries to change your sexual orientation "should be cited for medical malpractice."

Scientific evidence: I reviewed Simon LeVay’s Queer Science (try that in five minutes) and quoted what Simon said to me. "We may never discover the exact combination of nature and nurture that creates homosexuality. And I’m glad," he added. "It may be nature’s way of protecting the unique contributions we make to civilization."

Personal evidence: I told the young gay man my own story, the thirty-five year struggle to "overcome" my homosexuality that ended when I finally decided to obey my heart and trust God’s grace.

"I am gay," I told him. "I am proud. And God loves me without reservation." It is a statement of belief, A CREDO. There are sufficient evidences to support my belief but I’ve stopped worrying about the evidence. I’ve decided to believe that still small voice in my heart and bet my life on it. I love my gay self at last. Now I am free to love Jerry Falwell and the others who are still victims of misinformation that once victimized me.

Audre Lorde, another of my lesbian sheroes said, "We do not love ourselves, therefore we cannot love each other."(2)

I think that’s why Gandhi and King made self-love a primary goal of "soul force." Once we love ourselves we become invincible. If we continue to doubt our own worth, we will never have the courage or the stamina to win the struggle for our equal rights.

A Review
In Step #1 we recalled the suffering that sexual minorities continue to experience because other people misunderstand and hate us. But that "Aggie" freshman reminds us that an even greater suffering comes from misunderstanding and hating ourselves.

In Step #2 Gandhi and King called us to remember that we are bodies (that will die) but we are also souls (that will live forever.)

Today, I would take that young gay man aside and say to him, "Friend, you are a soul above all else. Love your body. Care for it. But love and care for your soul even more."

In Step #3 Gandhi and King remind us that we are not a body or a soul accidentally. Our bodies and our souls were created by the Soulforce at the center of the universe who loves us and promises to go on loving us forever."

Believe that truth, "Aggie" freshman, and you will never stand trembling in the shadows again. You are the Creator’s own child. Claim your own unique soul-force and move with certain steps into your magnificent future."

In Step #4 we were reminded that each of us is created as a sexual being. Whatever our sexual orientation (or the color of our skin or the shape of our nose), it is not a sickness to be healed nor a sin to be forgiven. Our sexuality is an integral part of our body and soul, a gift from our Creator to be lived with joy and integrity.

Trust your heart, "Aggie" freshman. Don’t let the anti-homosexuals wear you down. You are a homosexual. Accept that NOW and move on. Even more you are a homo-spiritual. Don’t get caught up in the "gay culture" that measures beauty in biceps and pectorals. Develop your soul-force. It is the size of your spirit not the size of your pecs that will make the difference."

In Step #5 we heard Martin Sheen echo the words of Gandhi and King. "Basic human rights," he said, "are not given by the hand of any state but flow abundantly from the hand of our loving Creator." (3)

When those basic human rights were being threatened by tyrants trained at the School of the Americas, Martin took his stand for justice. "I’m here," he told the world, "to do what is asked by a loving God."

"The [follower of Soul Force]," writes Gandhi, "endeavors to meet and conquer hatred by love. They oppose the brute or physical force by Soul Force. They hold that loyalty to an earthly sovereign or an earthly constitution is subordinate to loyalty to God and to God’s Constitution." (4)

Sheen risked arrest and imprisonment for the suffering masses of Latin America but he also did it for himself. "I come here," Martin explained, "to win my own freedom."

That is the "soul force" formula. God wants all Her children to be treated fairly. When they are not, those who join the struggle for justice find their own soul’s empowered and renewed. Doing justice is the way to discovering your "soul force." When we take a stand against the toxic rhetoric of Falwell and the others, they may not be changed immediately by our actions but we will be. It’s a "soul force" promise.

"The nonviolent approach does not immediately change the heart of the oppressor," Dr. King writes. "It first does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them new self-respect; it calls up resources of strength and courage that they did not know they had. Finally, it reaches the opponent and so stirs his conscience that reconciliation becomes a reality." (5)

That’s my hope, that in taking on the primary sources of misinformation we will discover our own soul force and eventually change the mind and heart of Jerry.

Design A Soulforce Credo About Yourself

In our next step, Step #7, we take a look at our adversaries as Gandhi and King see them. But in Files 1-6 we’ve seen ourselves as they see us. I’ve summarized their 5-6 "soul force" principles about our selves in two sample "soul force" credos below.

Read both sample credos. Decide which credo comes closest to reflecting your own beliefs. Use these as rough drafts to edit until they are your own. Or mix and match. When you have designed your own "soul force" credo, print it, sign it, and post it.

Your personal credo may be very different from mine. That’s not only allowed, it’s encouraged. But do take seriously the possibility of designing your own basic statement of belief about yourself. Until I discovered Gandhi and King, I had never even tried.

Five Soulforce Beliefs About Myself…
A Soulforce Credo

(Sample #1.)

I believe that…
I was given life, body and soul, by a loving Creator;
and though my body will die, my soul will live forever.

I believe that…
My sexual orientation is an integral part of my whole being, body and soul.
It is neither a sickness to be cured nor a sin to be forgiven.
It is a gift from my Creator to be accepted, celebrated, and lived with integrity.

I believe that…
My basic human rights
(including my right to live and love as my Creator planned)
are not given by human hand
but flow abundantly from the hand of God.

I believe that…
When my basic human rights
(or the basic human rights of another)
are threatened by any human hand
I am called by my Creator to help secure and defend those rights.

I believe that…
When I work to secure and defend my basic human rights
(or the basic human rights of another)
my soul is renewed and empowered
and my society is transformed.

A Soulforce Credo About Myself
(Sample #2.)

I am a soul
who will live forever.
Developing my own soul force is one of my primary life goals.

I am a created soul
who is loved by my Creator.
God promises to go with me on my journey into soul force.

I am a created gay* soul
who is loved by my Creator as I was created.
God calls me to accept and celebrate my sexual orientation as a gift.

I am a created gay* soul
who is endowed by my Creator with certain unalienable rights
God wants me to live and love as I was created.

I am a created gay* soul
who is called by my Creator to secure and defend those rights
God wants me to invest my life in the struggle for justice,
for myself and for all who suffer injustice.

I am a created gay* soul
who will discover the power of my soul ONLY
when I seek liberty and justice for all
And so we come full circle.
The key to developing my own soul force (my primary life goal)
is to join my Creator in the frontlines of the struggle for justice and peace.

*Or lesbian, or bisexual, or transgendered, or transexual, or heterosexual or…

Please try to design your own credo (or sign one of these) in the next three days. Love to you all,

Sources: Step #6.
(1) Dr. King, in a 1956 speech, quoted in Testament of Hope, HarperCollins, 1986, p137.
(2) Audre Lorde, in Sister Outsider, The Crossing Press, Freedom, California, 1984, p155.
(3) Martin Sheen, at the November 22, 1998, School of the America’s Watch, quoted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Nov. 23, 1998, C-1.
(4) Gandhi, quoted by his friend and co-worker, C.F. Andrews, in Mahatma Gandhi’s Ideas, The MacMillan Company, New York, 1930, p194.
(5) Dr. King, in an April 13, 1960 article in Christian Century, quoted in Testament of Hope, HarperCollins, 1986, p39.

NEXT: Step 7

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

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