A Soulforce Call for Direct Action: Bringing Truth and Love to Lynchburg

By Mel White
February 22, 1999

My nonviolent response to the Tinky Winky wars ("Bashing Jerry Falwell
Hurts Our Cause") set loose an Internet avalanche of anger. A lot of you
hate Mr. Falwell. Who can blame you? His anti-homosexual rhetoric leads
to wasted lives, ruined relationships, and broken families. I wasn’t
defending Jerry. I am committed to ending his flow of toxic words and
anti-gay political actions. I just believe that Jesus, Gandhi and King
show us a better way to do it.

At this moment, Jerry Falwell and the other leaders of the anti-homosexual
movement, are as important to us as we are important to them. Institutions
need "enemies" to survive. We use each other to raise funds and mobilize
volunteers. It wouldn’t be in our best interest to end Jerry Falwell’s
tirades. It would hurt our fund-raising efforts. Just as his fund-raising
appeals would weaken if he ever lost us.

In the meantime, it’s a rather impolite stand-off. We delight in bashing
each other in clever and provocative sound bites. Our supporters see us in
the papers or on television. They send us donations. We use every
opportunity to gain more air time and column inches. Jerry gets his by
"outing" Tinky Winky. We get ours by treating Jerry like the village idiot.
They hold their press conferences. We hold ours. They organize their
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." They think the same of us. We use every
tinky winky thing to escalate (not end) the conflict. Both sides use the
victims of our wordy war to mobilize support. Janet Folger and D. James
Kennedy use "ex-gays" who have been "wounded by the gay community" to raise
funds with full page newspaper ads and TV spots. We use pictures of a
bloody fence post on a frozen dirt road in Wyoming. In the process, anger
and frustration increase on both sides. Isn’t it time to look seriously for
a way to 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 without thinking. Three decades later, we need
to do some serious thinking about our ways of fighting back.

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. Jesus furnished the spirit and motivation,
while Gandhi furnished the method."

Now it is time for us to rediscover and apply those "soul force" principles
in our response to Jerry Falwell (and the others). It begins by seeing
Jerry as a "fallen brother", a victim of misinformation as we have been.
Our task is not to demonize, defeat, or destroy him but to help him see the
truth without violence against him "of our hearts, our tongues, or our fists."
We cannot give up on Jerry. That would be an act of violence. We must not
question Jerry’s motives either. Sincere or insincere, they do not
pertain. But we dare not allow Jerry to continue being a victim of untruth
or to continue victimizing others. Too many have suffered already.

At the heart of "soul force" is this rule: Peaceful "negotiations" to
reconcile with our adversary must always proceed 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.

A significant "direct action" (that will change the minds and hearts of
those looking on) is not a one day parade or an enthusiastic rally. Think
about Gandhi’s 245 mile march to the sea or King’s 383 day bus boycott in
Montgomery. People looking on were moved by their voluntary suffering.
"Soul force" calls us to this far more difficult and yet far more powerful way.

You know about Gandhi’s work. You saw the movie. And TV specials during
"Black History" month remind you how 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? Our angry words and colorful
marches won’t end their fear of us. Why not give nonviolence a chance?

On March 1, 1999, the "Friends of Soulforce" are gathering on the Internet
for an eight-week experiment in learning and applying the principles to
Jerry Falwell and the others. Twice a week we will send you an E-mail
sharing step-by-step what we are learning about the "soul force" journey.
We will introduce you to people who actually worked with Gandhi and King.
We will attempt to apply the 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." 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.

If you would like to join us on this complimentary journey into "soul
force" e-mail us at Soulforce1@aol.com. Forward this message to your
friends. Post it on a bulletin board. Spread it around. 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 change the world.

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!

— OK to Forward, Print, or Publish —

Mel White and Gary Nixon, Partners in Soulforce,
P.O. Box 4467, Laguna Beach, CA. 92652.
Fax: (949) 455-0959 Soulforce1@aol.com
www.melwhite.org www.soulforce.org

Bashing Jerry Falwell is Harmful to Our Cause: A Soulforce Response to the Tinky Winky Tumult

From Mel White

February 17, 1999

For the past few daze, we’ve been buried under an avalanche of articles and press releases bashing Jerry Falwell for "outing Tinky Winky."

After rushing to condemn him in colorful and indignant sound bites, we learn that Mr. Falwell didn’t "out" Tinky at all. J. M. Smith, Senior Editor of Jerry’s National Liberty Journal, wrote the column that launched a million quips. Before our surprise attack, Jerry had never seen an episode of the Teletubbies, let alone denounced them.

If anyone outed this cute little character (who is purple, wears a triangular antenna on his head, and carries a purse) it was our own Washington Blade in an April 17, 1998, article. Mr. Smith quoted the article as the source of his column in Falwell’s newsletter. The original article suggests that Tinky provides " a great message to kids – not only that it’s OK to be gay, but the importance of being well-accessorized." Mr. Smith was simply alerting parents to that claim.

Like the original author, I cheer every lesbian or gay character that "comes out" on television, even the fuzzy, uncertain kind. But what do we achieve by bashing those, like Jerry, who disagree? We are called by Jewish and Christian prophets, "to love our enemy." Out-loving our enemy is the onlyway we can prove to Jerry that he is wrong about us, that we have chosen the high moral ground, that we are God’s children, too. Bashing Jerry only hurts us.

I know from experience. I spent three years bashing Falwell, Robertson, Dobson and the others. I got lots of attention, but I did very little to help our cause and nothing to change the minds and hearts of those who fear us.

Then I discovered the "soul force" principles of relentless nonviolence as taught by Gandhi and King. Both men make it clear. Our ultimate goal is NOT to triumph over Mr. Falwell, let alone to embarrass or silence him. Our long-range goal is to reconcile with Jerry, to create, in Dr. King’s words, "the beloved community" where we can live as neighbors with Jerry and his family.

Dr. King would also remind us that Jerry Falwell is our brother, a child of the same Creator. Jerry is not evil, stupid nor insane. He is a member of our human family who is a victim of the same misinformation that once kept us in our closets. Our job is not to humiliate him but to bring him truth, in love, relentlessly until he, too, is set free.

Instead, we bashed him just like he bashes us. And in the process, we lost the battle. The man whose image and ideals we try regularly to laugh away, ended up the winner again, interviewed by practically every newspaper and television program in the country. Our bashing helped Jerry regain his old role as the most visible spokesman for the fundamentalist Christian right. "Who would have ever predicted," Jerry said today, "that the little parental warning in the February issue of the Journal would open such a world of opportunity I’ll gladly allow my name to be soiled by the secular press in order to have the occasion to share my relationship with Christ – any time!"

I know Jerry Falwell. Of course he is "slick, a "media maven," a "genius at using the anti-homosexual rhetoric to raise money and mobilize volunteers," but he is not a phony. Right or wrong the man is sincerely committed to defeating "the gay agenda" and to "saving homosexuals from their sickness and their sin."

Our ridicule, our clever sound bites, our anti-Jerry campaigns do NOT phase the man. He enjoys every minute of the conflict. We will not stop his flood of anti-homosexual misinformation by bashing him. Our one day marches, rallies, and demonstrations won’t do it either. In fact, more than likely they play directly into our adversary’s hands. And verbal (or physical) violence against Jerry only prove to his followers that Jerry’s fears about us are true.

When I was writing Jerry’s autobiography (we all have pasts to be forgiven) he remembered those days when he was misusing Scripture to support segregation. "It wasn’t Congress, the Courts, or the Attorney General that changed my mind," he recalled. "It was a black man who shined my shoes every Saturday. One day, he looked into my eyes and said quietly, ‘When do you think I can join your church, Reverend?’" Jerry still remembers that day.

I appeal to the 22,000 members of Jerry’s Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg. At least 1,000 of you are gay or lesbian, or have gay or lesbian children. Come out. Share your story with your pastor. It may cost you, but it will also set you free.

I appeal to the gay and lesbian students among the 14,000 young people enrolled at Jerry’s Liberty University. Can you imagine the difference you could make if your story moved Jerry even a little closer to the truth? I appeal to the 26,000 Liberty graduates who have received your diploma from Jerry’s hand. How long will you wait before telling him the truth as you know it? ACT-UP reminds us that "Silence equals death."

Without meaning anyone harm, Pastor Jerry has become one of the four or five primary sources of misinformation about God’s gay and lesbian children in the nation. He doesn’t understand let alone believe that his false and inflammatory rhetoric leads (directly and indirectly) to discrimination, suffering, and death. I’m sure that Jerry would condemn those who killed Matthew Shepard or carved "fag" into Adam Colton’s chest. Help him understand that unintentionally it is his toxic, anti-homosexual rhetoric that pollutes the national discourse and helps give license to those crimes.

In the 28 years of activism since Stonewall we haven’t changed the minds or hearts of Falwell, Robertson, Dobson, Kennedy or the others. No wonder. We’ve ridiculed and reviled them never realizing that hating them is violence of the heart and bashing them is violence of the tongue and pen. Let’s try the ways of nonviolence.

You may not know Jerry, but you could still write him in the nonviolent spirit of "soul force." He’s on the net at Jerry@Falwell.com. Apologize for the hate he’s experienced from our community. Share your own story with him. Answer one of his specific UNTRUTHS about homosexuality and homosexuals with TRUTH. Pray for Jerry. And if you’ve stopped praying, try to imagine Jerry as God sees him, a sincere man who is doing great wrong. Ask your Creator to help you love Jerry and see where that love leads.

Our civil rights movement will not succeed unless our adversaries see us as men and women of integrity. Let’s take the high moral ground. Let’s stop bashing and show them by our relentless, loving commitment to TRUTH that we are God’s children, too. Let’s start responding to them with "soul force." If they continue refusing to hear us, if they continue to ignore the evidence, then we’ll have to go the next step. We are making plans to that end. Will you join us?