The Original 17 Step Journey: Step 8

With the Rev. Dr. Mel White

(From an email I received February 22, 1999)

"…We gays haven’t turned violent, YET; but let there be some more Shepard-style murders and then we shall see. Many of us older gays served in the U.S.Armed Forces and learned how to handle M-16s and demolition devices. One dead gay is good for one burned-out fundie church…"

It’s natural to hate
How easy it is to hate Jerry Falwell (especially after reading the letter in File #7 that Jerry sent to millions of his supporters.) How many times have we been tempted to hate them all, to ridicule them, to wish them dead? How quickly our rallies and marches can regress into name calling contests. How often our banners and posters reflect insult and rage.

Even the really funny sound bites about Jerry’s fear of Tinky Winky (that we passed around on email) barely disguise the growing hatred so many in our community feel towards Falwell, Robertson, Dobson and the others. But where does hating lead us?

Gandhi on Hatred
"Hatred ever kills, love never dies…What is obtained by love is retained for all time. What is obtained by hatred becomes a burden in reality, for it increases hatred." Gandhi (1)

King on Hatred
"Hate is always tragic. It is as injurious to the hater as it is to the hated. It distorts the personality and scars the soul. Psychiatrists, believing that many of man’s inner conflicts are rooted in hate, are now saying ‘Love or perish.’ And this is the beauty of nonviolence. It says you can struggle without hating; you can fight war without violence." Martin Luther King, Jr. (2)

It is "natural" to hate, but hating Jerry will NOT help our cause or end his campaign of misinformation against us. Hating is, however, a place to start. One who hates Jerry and the others is at least awake.

If we are just neutral, blas愰, or indifferent to the war being waged against us, if we don’t feel passionately about our own freedom (and the threat against it), we are worse off than our sisters and brothers who hate. But hating doesn’t help us end the untruth that leads to discrimination and violence and it gives us ulcers in the process.

Soulforce: Learning to out-love our adversaries
Gandhi read Jesus’ words "Love your enemies" and determined to turn the principle into practice. Soulforce is a call to those who are awake enough to hate our enemies, to love them instead. Why? Because love is the only way to turn our enemies into friends.

Often Dr. King had to explain that loving our enemies didn’t mean sleeping with them (eros or romantic love) or becoming their best friend (philia or the love of old friends.) For King, loving our enemies was agape love, "…understanding, creative, redemptive, good will to all…It is the love of God," he said, "operating in the human heart…We love our enemies because God loves them." King (3)

Love and Truth in action
Gandhi believed that nonviolent Indians (practicing truth and love) could conquer the violent forces of the British Empire. And history proved him right.

King believed that nonviolent "Negroes" (practicing truth and love) could conquer the violent forces of lynch mobs, southern sheriffs, and the Ku Klux Klan. And history proved him right.

Do you believe that LGBT people and our allies (armed only with truth and love) can conquer the violent forces that flow out of this campaign of misinformation against us? I’m hoping that history won’t prove that we didn’t even try.

(From an email I received March 21, 1999)

"…Despite my respect for Martin Luther King, Jr., there is only so much of this religious claptrap that I can stomach. Spare me the religious crap about there always being hope [that Jerry’s mind and heart can be changed]. There is none in his case, and all of this ultra-saintly Gandhian posturing is so much self indulgence and self-delusion if it is not balanced by a cool-headed recognition of the reality of evil represented by Falwell, Dobson, Sheldon, et al…."

I was moved by these passionate words from someone on our "Journey into Soulforce". (If you think these words are strong, you should read others I’ve received.)

Friend, if you are still with us, please understand. I know Jerry and the others intimately. While ghost writing their biographies, I spent hours in their homes and offices, in their limos and jets. I understand better than most people the "reality of evil" that Jerry and the others represent. Their UNTRUTHS are a threat to everything we hold dear. Their incessant campaign against us leads directly to suffering and death. It must end!

I’ve buried too many men and women who were murdered by gay-bashers or who killed themselves because their hearts were poisoned by the tragic UNTRUTHS proclaimed by Jerry and the others. I’m not asking that we apply cheap grace to their sinfulness. I’m not calling for inaction. I’m calling for a new kind of action, action based on truth and love.

I may be na暠ve as you suggest. But I am convinced that the Soulforce principles – used by Gandhi with the British and by King with southern sheriffs and the KKK – can also be used to end the flow of toxic rhetoric that leads to our suffering and death. In a few more files, I will be more specific in how Gandhi and King would have us develop that plan, but if you think I was na暠ve in past files, wait until you read the next few paragraphs.

Steps 1-6 were fairly easy to accept. For Indians, "Untouchables", "Negroes", and for "Queers," practicing truth and love (Soulforce) begins by seeing ourselves in a whole new way. But seeing ourselves in a whole new way is not enough.

Gandhi and King both remind us that before we are ready to take "direct action" against UNTRUTH we must see our adversaries in a whole new way as well. They insist that we will hate our adversaries until we understand and believe these basic truths about them. When Gandhi says "love your enemy" this Credo is the beginning of what he means.

A Soulforce Credo About My Adversary

  1. I believe that my adversary is also a child of the Creator, that we are both members of the same human family, that we are sisters and brothers in need of reconciliation.
  2. I believe that my adversary is not my enemy, but a victim of misinformation as I have been.
  3. I believe that my only task is to bring my adversary truth in love (nonviolence) relentlessly.
  4. I believe that my adversary’s motives are as pure as mine and of no relevance to our discussion.
  5. I believe that even my worst adversary has an amazing potential for positive change.
  6. I believe that my adversary may have an insight into truth that I do not have.
  7. I believe that one day my adversary and I will understand each other and that if we conduct our search for truth guided by the principles of love, we will find a new position to satisfy us both.

______________________________________(Your Name)

_______________________ (Date)


Now, read the Credo one more time. When you see the words "My adversary" change them to "Jerry Falwell". (In later readings substitute the name of another primary "gay-basher" in your life – it might even be your Mom or Dad, your pastor or priest, a friend, co-worker or classmate – but for this second reading, indulge me. Substitute Jerry.)

Before you FORWARD Step #8 to your partner, write your own brief reactions under any or all of the seven points listed above in "A Soulforce Credo About My Adversary".

For example, I personally would write under #4.
‘I find it difficult to believe that Jerry’s motives are as "pure as mine." It’s easier to believe that Jerry is waging war against us just to raise money and mobilize volunteers. But I wrote Jerry’s "autobiography". I know him intimately. He IS using the anti-gay rhetoric but he also believes it. He is sincere but sincerely wrong about us. Talking about his motives only clouds the discussion. Let’s take on the UNTRUTHS and leave Jerry’s motives (and our own) out of the discussion.’

If you are ready, please copy, cut out, and sign THE SOULFORCE CREDO ABOUT MY ADVERSARY. If you are not ready to sign it, keep it nearby, discuss it with your Partner on this Journey, and wait until you are ready. There’s plenty of time.

Love to you all,

(1) Gandhi in Harijan, August 20, 1938, p.226, PPMG, p. 74.
(2) Dr. King in "The Case Against Tokenism," a New York Times article, 5 August 1962, 11ff., quoted in A Testament of Hope, p.111.
(3) Dr. King in an address, "Love, Law, and Civil Disobedience," 16 November, 1961, quoted in A Testament of Hope, p. 46.

NEXT: Step 9

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