Soulforce Anti-War Stance

In the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the principles of non-violence, Soulforce has joined with the ELCA, the National Council of Churches, PAX Christi USA, Sojourners, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, and many others in the "Win Without War Coalition."

You can find out more about it at www.winwithoutwarus.org

Read our Peace Statement at www.soulforce.org/article/733

You can read a first hand account of being in Bagdad during the war by clicking on Kara’s Iraqi Diary. Kara is a supporter/volunteer for Soulforce who saw some of the war first hand.

Soulforce Peace Statement

March 20, 2003

The day the war began.

Dear Soulforce Supporters,

This is a grave time for our nation and the world and we mourn the lives that this war will eliminate, the families this war will destroy, and the nations this war will devastate.

No one has any idea how far the ripple effects of this war will reach, and we understand the pain people are feeling, but we need to remain strong and dedicated to peace and nonviolence, especially when confronted with violence and war.

We encourage people to be involved in nonviolent expressions of their conscience, whether it is putting a candle in the window, participating in prayer vigils, or taking part in thoughtful acts of nonviolent resistance.

We pray that these forms of expression do not lead to more violence.

As we seek to make sense of the chaos around us, we hope you can direct the pain in positive ways and focus on working for peace, justice, and equality.

We encourage people to use this as a motivation to become adherents of nonviolence, and to study the works and the words of Gandhi and King, who have taught us that we must be the change we wish to see in the world.

Peace,

Soulforce

Arun Gandhi to Lead Training in Principles of Nonviolence

"Soulforce Institute for Nonviolent Change" and "24 Hours of Justice" to take place in St. Louis during the Southern Baptist Convention, June 2002

Soulforce Press Release
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell: 717-278-0592
email: soulforcemedia@aol.com

(Laguna Beach, CA) – Soulforce, an interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people, will once again be on the front lines of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC’s) annual meeting. The SBC’s annual meeting will be held at the America’s Center in St. Louis this year. Soulforce was also present at the SBC meetings in Orlando in 2000 and New Orleans in 2001 to protest the SBC’s antigay policies and teachings.

From June 7 -9, the "Soulforce Institute for Nonviolent Change" will take place at Centenary United Methodist Church, 55 Plaza Square in St. Louis, Missouri. Supporters of Soulforce from across the United States and Canada will join with residents of St. Louis to take part in nonviolence trainings and workshops.

Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and founder of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, will be the keynote speaker on June 8 and facilitate a workshop on nonviolence for those attending the Institute. Civil rights leaders from the 1960’s will also participate, as will other experts in the field of nonviolent resistance.

Then, on June 10-11, Soulforce is sponsoring "24 Hours of Justice" designed to bring truth and justice to the Southern Baptists, beginning with GLBT Southern Baptists sharing their struggles and faith journeys. Those planning to participate in the "24 Hours" of vigils and/or direct action are required to participate in specialized nonviolence training on June 10. Vigils will take place throughout the night in front of America’s Center, where the SBC convention is being held. Tuesday, vigils will continue, and additional activities will include a march, media event at the America’s Center, and a direct action and possible civil disobedience and arrests.

Throughout the five days, additional options will be available to youth over 18 interested in the principles of nonviolence. Soulforce will also introduce its new Youth Coordinator, Jacob Reitan, who has been a significant and instrumental part of the planning of these events.

Advocacy groups from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, including the Extraordinary Candidacy Project, Lutherans Concerned/North America, Wingspan, and Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries have pledged their support and commitment for this action. Individuals from PFLAG, Equal Partners in Faith, Metropolitan Community Church of Greater St. Louis, and former Southern Baptist ministers and other free and faithful Baptists are also participating in both the Institute and the ""24 Hours of Justice".

"On several occasions, we have attempted to dialogue with Dr. James Merritt, president of the SBC. He responded that he refuses to enter into dialogue about the issue, and will not change his position that homosexuality is a ‘sinful lifestyle’," said Mel White, Executive Director and co-founder of Soulforce, Inc. "Therefore, Soulforce will continue its relentless campaign to challenge the homophobia and untruths perpetuated by Southern Baptist religious policies and teachings. And we will not stop until every gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Southern Baptist knows that God loves them just the way they are."

Read the letters sent to Soulforce by Dr. Merritt and his response.
For interviews, call 717-278-0592.

The Soulforce Process – Nonviolent Principles of Direct Action

Steps involved in a relentless nonviolent resistance
(A brief overview)

  • Commit and recommit ourselves to the non-violent Soul Force principles
  • Research the case against our adversary carefully, in print, audio, and video
  • Negotiate with our adversary first: amicably, carefully, relentlessly, if this fails
  • Educate the media, our allies, and the allies of our adversary
  • Recruit and train allies for direct action
  • Confront our adversary with direct action only to move negotiations forward
  • Negotiate a third position that will satisfy us both
  • Reconcile with our adversary and help bring in "the beloved community" which is the ultimate goal of Soulforce

To take the Soulforce Journey to nonviolence, begin with Step One at www.soulforce.org/main/step1.shtml

The Original 17 Step Journey: Introduction

INVITATION TO TAKE A JOURNEY INTO SOULFORCE With the Rev. Dr. Mel White

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

AN AVALANCHE OF ANGRY EMAIL
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.

ARE WE USING JERRY LIKE JERRY USES US?
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?

STONEWALL: A REVOLUTION BORN IN A TIME OF VIOLENCE
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?

WHAT IS "SOUL FORCE"?
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.)

SOULFORCE AND JERRY FALWELL
"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.

A MORE POWERFUL WAY
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?

WHAT IS SOULFORCE, INC.?
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.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO AGREE TO JOIN US ON THE "JOURNEY…"
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
Email: melwhite@soulforce.org

The Original 17 Step Journey: Step 2

With the Rev. Dr. Mel White
"SOUL SUFFERING…"

Sad News
Backstage in a large hotel dinning room, just moments before I was scheduled to address a "black tie" dinner, the emcee read a note just handed her and suddenly broke into tears.

On the eve of this "Pride" banquet, another gay teenager had died. Condemned by his parents, by his priest, and by his counselor, the honor student had shot himself to death while lying on a plastic sheet in a mortuary parking lot. "I’m doing it here," he wrote, "so I won’t be any more trouble to anyone."

Teen Suicide Data
Nationally, teen suicide is growing at alarming rates. Since 1960, the number of teen suicides has tripled in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 1989, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report stating that up to a third of all teen suicides were committed by gay youths. In 1998, a University of Minnesota study of 36,000 youth found that homosexual or bisexual boys were seven times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual classmates.* (There was very little difference noted in the much lower rate of suicide attempts by heterosexual and homosexual girls).

Soul-Suffering
We recoil with rage and grief when we hear that Matthew Shepard was beaten, tied to a fence and left to die in a frozen field in Wyoming. We are outraged when we learn that young Adam Colton was pinned to the ground while bashers carved "fag" into his bruised and bleeding chest. But there is another kind of suffering that should make us just as angry and just as sad, the kind of soul-suffering that causes our best and brightest to kill themselves.

Christopher Calhoun, a Public Policy Advocate at the Los AngelesGay & Lesbian Center, calls it "…the silent inner wars – the conflicts that crowd the hearts and exhaust the souls of millions of gay and lesbian kids."

"For many of them," Chris explains, "the central, defining inner turmoil of their lives is the conflict between their growing awareness of their sexual difference and the preachings they hear (and have until now believed) that gay and lesbian people are sinful, filthy or filled with the devil."**

Karen Blakeney, Director of Youth Services at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, describes the damage that can be done to a person’s spirit by comparing a hostile religious environment to "a trash compactor" that "squashes everything down."

"That vital aspect of the self gets crushed and damaged," Karen explains, "and becomes a very hard, solid, dense mass…bound together by anger."

Ending Soul-Suffering
The anti-homosexual rhetoric that flows out of misinformed religious leaders like Jerry Falwell leads to all kinds of crimes against God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered children. But even worse, the anti-homosexual rhetoric takes root inside each of us like a cancer that eats away at our human spirit and eventually cripples our soul.

In South Africa and India, Gandhi wanted to end British rule, but he was even more concerned about restoring the souls of his people ground down by their oppression. (Ironically, Gandhi was equally concerned about restoring the souls of the British, damaged by oppressing others.)

In the United States, Dr. King was determined to see segregation end, but he was even more determined to renew the broken spirits of its victims, (black and segregationist alike.)

If we are to take their "soul force" principles seriously, we must first think about soul. Do believe in the idea of a human soul? How would you define it?

Do You Believe In Soul?
[Take a moment to write your feelings about "soul" on a separate sheet of paper. When you share Step #2. with your Soulforce Partner, be sure your comments about "soul" are included. Your Partner should write his or her comments before you get together.

(WRITE NOW YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT THE HUMAN "SOUL")
(After you’ve written, continue reading)

The First Soulforce Credo
I Believe in "Soul"

I’ve received a lot of email from on-line friends who find it very difficult to believe in the "outdated notion of a human soul." If you don’t believe in "soul" you’re still welcome to take this journey with us. But from the beginning you should know that "soul force" is based entirely on the belief in human "soul." In 1930, Gandhi wrote these words:

"The only condition for a successful use of this [soul] force is a recognition of the existence of the soul as apart from the body, and its permanent and superior nature; and this recognition must amount to a living faith and not to a mere intellectual grasp.***

If we want to use those "soul force" principles in eliminating our own oppression, we must first think about the damage that the rhetoric of our oppressors like Jerry has done to our own individual souls (Just remember that Jerry’s soul, too, has been crippled by oppressing us, but we’ll get to that later.)

Question One: How has the anti-homosexual, anti-bisexual, anti-transgendered rhetoric wounded your soul? (Heterosexual’s souls, too, are wounded by the campaign against sexual minorities. If you are a heterosexual, how has this war of words wounded your soul?)

Question Two: What have you done, what are you doing, to heal your own wounded soul?

Question Three: Although you may not like the idea of dividing yourself into body, mind, and spirit (soul), indulge me for a moment. How would you compare the health of your soul to the health of your body or the health of your intellect at this present time?

WRITE NOW YOUR ANSWERS TO THE THREE QUESTIONS ABOVE
(After you’ve written, continue reading)

Gandhi and King describe the two primary goals of "soul force" as (1) the renewal of individual human spirit and in the process (2) the transformation of corporate society.

This sixteen-step "Journey into Soulforce" has two goals. The transformation of society (in this case through the transformation of Jerry Falwell). But changing Jerry (and by that changing society) is our second goal. Actually, our first goal is the renewal of your spirit. If your spirit is NOT refreshed and renewed by this journey, I will have failed.

A Postscript
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Martin Luther King, Jr.

One last thing, sexual minorities hold no exclusive on suffering (of the body, mind, or soul.) During this "journey," I am focusing on the suffering of God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered children because I want to apply the principles of "soul force" to help end the rhetoric of Jerry Falwell and the other religious leaders whose rhetoric incites that suffering.

But we must also acknowledge and help end the suffering of all God’s children who suffer injustice and oppression.

Gandhi and King would have us involved in doing justice for the poor, the hungry, the homeless and the oppressed regardless of their sexual orientation. The principles of "soul force" can be applied in resolving the racial, ethnic, national, and religious wars that plague our world. Imagine what our powerful, creative, and courageous community could achieve if we ever really liberated the power of our own collective soul.

Glad to have you on this journey!

Much love,
Mel

Have you started reading a biography of Gandhi or King?
Have you viewed the GANDHI video yet? View the video ROMERO next.

* A University of Minnesota study in the 8/98 American Journal of Public Health. Available on line at (http://www.virtualcity.com/youthsuicide/index.htm).

** "Vanguard" (By the LA Gay & Lesbian Center), Vol. 1, No. 6, Feb. 1998. Available on line at (http://www.gay-lesbian-center.org/index_2.html). (Choose the Vanguard button at bottom of screen).

*** C.F. Andrews, Mahatma Gandhi’s Ideas, (The first biography of Gandhi written by the young English clergyman and close friend to Gandhi featured in the GANDHI video), Macmillan, New York, 1930, pg. 194.

NEXT: Step 3

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

The Original 17 Step Journey: Step 3

With the Rev. Dr. Mel White
"THE QUESTION OF FAITH…"

[An Atheist Responds to our Journey into Soulforce]
"…Through education and a disgust with the religious right, atheism is a growing movement. I hope you will respect our right to not believe in the Moses god as we respect your right to believe…You wrote that Soulforce was ‘relentless nonviolent resistance’ but it could be interpreted as a space age term for the same old Moses god…" (1)

My response
Well said, friend. Here’s my response to three of your key phrases:

I. "…will you respect our right to not believe?"
I do respect your right to not believe. And I will listen carefully to your opinions as you hear mine. That’s what "soul force" is about, searching for Truth together.

But do take seriously the fact that both Gandhi and King believed that "soul force" (relentless nonviolent resistance) could only be effectively maintained by a person of faith. There are other very thoughtful advocates of nonviolence who disagree. I consider you one of those; but stay with us, see why they took this stand, and decide for yourself.

Actually, you’re in good company as an atheist. Most of us who call ourselves "believers" act more often out of unbelief. Gandhi said it this way: "We have become atheists for all practical purposes. And therefore we believe that in the long run we must rely upon physical force for our protection." (2)

Question: If you consider yourself a "person of faith" how does your faith help sustain you in times of crises? If you don’t consider yourself a "person of faith" what sustains you when you are under siege?

STOP A MOMENT TO RESPOND IN WRITING

II. "…atheism is a growing movement…"

Bad religion has become the enemy of God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered children. Many in our community have chosen to reject bad religion before it wounds them any deeper. And though there are thoughtful, life-long atheists among us, some who call themselves "atheists" are really people of faith stuck between rejecting an old inadequate god and embracing the new Spirit of Truth.

Too many of these "rejectors" throw the baby (of faith) out with the bath (of bad religion). They confuse religion and faith and in the process, give up both. When we abandon our spirit-journeys (because we’ve been abandoned by our churches, synagogues, or temples), we only hurt ourselves.

Walt Whitman, a brother, gives us this advice. "Review every thing you’ve been taught. Discard any thing that’s an insult to your soul. And begin again."(3)

In the meantime, wherever you are on your own faith journey, you are welcome.

Gandhi embraced agnostics and atheists as friends in transition who have abandoned old, inadequate gods. He saw the unbeliever as a person of faith on a journey back towards the authentic, the powerful, the trustworthy Spirit of Truth at the center of the universe.

So many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people are born with special faith gifts. Often, their struggle with sexual orientation frees them to discover those gifts. My son reminded me that if I "hadn’t been gay" I still might "be one of them." After accepting my homosexuality as God’s gift, I’ve gone on to accept my homo-spirituality as well.

You know from native-American history that the tribes who first peopled this land often choose lesbians, gay, bisexuals, and transgenders to be their holy people. They called us the "two-spirited" ones. (4) Now our (spirit) tribes want to purge us. It won’t be easy.

Imagine, for example, what would happen if they purged all church organists who are gay. There would be silence in Christendom. Or think what would happen to the Roman Catholic Church if they managed to eliminate every lesbian nun, gay priest, bishop, or cardinal. What a waste. L/G/B/T people of faith are at the heart of every faith movement.

However, I think those who would purge us from their churches are right when they say we "threaten" traditional values. Jesus and the Jewish prophets really threatened tradition. The fundamentalists of his time said to Jesus, "You disregard the traditions of your elders." And he responded, "For the sake of your traditions you have rendered God powerless."(5)

Once this silly war ends, once we are fully accepted back into our places of faith, those who once feared us will see that we were not born to destroy religion but to save it.

Question: Are you an atheist? An agnostic? A person of faith? Or are you a person in transition, unsure about what you believe or why you believe it? Share briefly the story of your faith-journey.

STOP A MOMENT TO RESPOND IN WRITING

III. [Soulforce] "…a space age term for the same old Moses god…"
Sounds like you think I might be using this experiment to recruit or evangelize. Sorry. There are no hidden agendas to this journey. I’m not that kind of Christian anymore. In fact, by the old fundamentalist standard, I’m not even a Christian.

After I keynoted an NGLTF conference, Urvashi Vaid, one of my lesbian sheroes, startled me with this question. "Mel," she asked, "how can you still be a Christian at all?" When I asked her to define "Christian" she replied, "You know, like Falwell and Robertson."

"If that’s what Christianity is to you, Urv," I replied, "I’m not a Christian." "What are you then?" she asked. I replied slowly. "I’m a mediocre follower of a first century Jewish carpenter’s son." "Well, I can accept that," Urv said before hurrying away.

Believer and Unbeliever, we are in this thing together
"Soul force" is a call for the lesbian daughter of an Indian Hindu and the gay son of an American evangelical to search for Truth together. I am a Christian, to be sure. I honor the teachings of Jesus and try my best to follow them. I love the God of Moses, of David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi. But I honor and respect those who don’t.

Therefore, before you feel excluded because you don’t see yourself as a "person of faith" who is "big on Moses," remember neither Gandhi nor King were sectarian in this rule (that "soul force" requires faith). Quite to the contrary, Gandhi said, "True morality consists not in following the beaten path but in finding out the true path for ourselves and in fearlessly following it."(6)

Gandhi defined God as Truth but began each day with personal and group prayer and meditation on the holy writings of all the "great religions." His favorite Christian text was Matthew 5-7, the "Sermon on the Mount" and his favorite Christian hymns were "Lead Kindly Light" and "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross." He often read and quoted the Jewish prophets and poets in the Hebrew Testament, especially the Psalms.

Gandhi, the Hindu, and King, the Baptist preacher, were agreed on one thing. Nonviolence flows out of faith. Gandhi asked marchers before every march to sign a pledge that he or she "had a living faith in God." Dr. King, a Baptist preacher, marched arm-in-arm with Jews, Catholics, mainline Protestants and other people of faith, agnostics and atheists but almost invariably he asked marchers to sign a pledge that they would at least "meditate daily on the life and teachings of Jesus."

IV. "you are pious and na暠ve…"
In the last few days, my email contained letters, editorials, and commentaries calling me "pious" and "na暠ve" (to quote the kinder, gentler remarks). I am both.

But nonviolence is a dangerous and difficult path. It is so much easier to respond to hate with hate, to lies with clever, angry sound bites, to ignorance with sarcasm and derision. Echoing Jesus’ command to love our enemies will anger our enemies and our friends.

King wrote his famous letter from the Birmingham Jail to his loudest critics, the Christian clergy of Alabama. Gandhi was killed by a fellow Hindu who thought him "pious" and "na暠ve" about Muslims. Our friends are confused when we love our enemies. They think we’re cowards backing away from the battle. Our enemies hate it when we love them because they have no way to defend against it. So, we get abuse from both sides. I think that’s why Gandhi and King both insist that we prepare our souls for combat before we even begin to draw up a nonviolent battle plan.

Trust me. In just a few weeks, we’ll be looking closely at the "soul force" guidelines for direct action. Soon enough we’ll be applying the rules of Gandhi and King to our struggle to end the false and inflammatory rhetoric of Jerry Falwell and the others. In the meantime, both Gandhi and King advise us to prepare our souls/spirits for the struggle ahead.

Dr. King writes, "At times we may feel that we do not need God, but on the day when the storms of disappointment rage, the winds of disaster blow, and the tidal waves of grief beat against our lives, if we do not have a deep and patient faith our emotional lives will be ripped to shreds…Only God is able. It is faith we must rediscover. With this faith we can transform bleak and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of joy and bring new light into the dark caverns of pessimism."(7)

Gandhi declared to the people of India "The first and the last shield and buckler of the non-violent person will be his/her unwavering faith in God."(8)

Question: Why do you think before every nonviolent direct action, both Gandhi and King asked volunteers to sign a pledge that they were "persons of faith"? Would you sign such a pledge today? Why? Why not?

STOP A MOMENT TO RESPOND IN WRITING

Now, copy the file with your thoughtful comments and pass it to your Journey Partner. This sharing with a "partner" may seem a silly exercise to you, but try it. You might be surprised.

Love to you all,
Mel

(1) Email received February 22, 1999
(2) Gandhi, Young India, I, p.720. Quoted in Dhawan, p.41.
(3) I saw this quote credited to Walt Whitman written on the side of a truck in Boston, Mass. Does anyone know the source?
(4) See Walter Williams, The Spirit and the Flesh: Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture, Beacon Press, Boston, 1980.
(5) Jesus in Matthew 15:6-7
(6) Gandhi in Ethical Religion, p. 38. Quoted in Dhawan, p 120.
(7) Dr. King in Testament of Hope, Harper San Francisco, 1986, pg. 508, from a sermon at Ebendezer Baptist Church.
Gandhi in Harijan, Oct. 13, 1940, p. 318. Quoted in Dhawan, p.41.

NEXT: Step 4

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

The Original 17 Step Journey: Step 7

With the Rev. Dr. Mel White
"THE RHETORIC THAT LEADS TO SUFFERING MUST BE STOPPED…"

Stunned!
Just a few days after Jerry Falwell found himself at war with Tinky Winky, Gary and I took a long, quiet walk on Laguna’s Main Beach. We were enjoying the splendor of this sacred place when we were stunned to see a retaining wall freshly spray-painted with these three terrifying words: "Kill Rev. Falwell."

We wouldn’t have been shocked to see "Die fag" painted on a rock. We wouldn’t have been surprised to hear "Kill a homo for Christ" shouted from a passing car. Even in our "gay-friendly" town, we know how quickly the anti-homosexual rhetoric becomes violence against us. But we were stunned to see (on our favorite beach) an example of how the anti-Falwell rhetoric led to this call for violence against Jerry.

Jerry Falwell is not our enemy
Gandhi and King would remind us that the "religious right" is not our enemy. Jerry Falwell, James Dobson,.James Kennedy, Gary Bauer and the other anti-gay religious leaders (including the Episcopal bishops at Lambeth or Cardinal Ratzinger in the Vatican) aren’t the source of our suffering. If they disappear the suffering will go on.

Our real enemy is UNTRUTH. Eliminating Jerry would only hurt our cause and hurt it badly. That kind of irresponsible act (and the rhetoric that gives it license) would only support their Untruths about us.

Those who believe (and even those who teach) the UNTRUTHS about sexual orientation are victims, too. To understand the cause of our suffering is to understand the untruths, half-truths, and misunderstandings that have victimized us all.

Untruth is our enemy
The origins of UNTRUTH about homosexuality and homosexuals are ancient and complex (1). In past centuries, our sisters and brothers had almost no evidence to support the TRUTH that they were God’s children, too.

Now, there is plenty of EVIDENCE that supports the American Psychological Association’s declaration that "it is as natural to be homosexual as it is to be left handed." (2) Unfortunately, new truth always has a difficult time at overcoming ancient prejudice. Jerry is a primary modern source of ancient Untruth Jerry didn’t invent homophobia (the fear of homosexuals that comes from Untruth about them). But his obsessive anti-homosexual rhetoric stirs up those ancient fears with tragic consequences for us all.

At the close of this Step, you will find a typical letter from Jerry sent to an estimated four million supporters on his old Moral Majority mailing list. It is just one of hundreds we have collected. Reading it may cause you to hyperventilate. I’m sorry for the pain it may cause you. But you need to know exactly what Jerry and the others are saying about us. Their rhetoric has consequences in your life and in the life of those you love.

Abraham Heschel, rabbi, scholar, poet, another "soul force" hero, reminds us why.

"Speech has power and few realize that words do not fade. What starts out as a sound ends in a deed." -Abraham Heschel (3)

Several of you have asked why I’m making this "Journey into Soulforce" so "Falwell specific." Here’s why.

  1. I believe that this false and inflammatory anti-homosexual rhetoric is poisoning the minds and hearts of the nation, that it leads to wasted lives, ruined relationships, divided families, wide-spread suffering and even death.
  2. I believe that something must be done to stop this endless flow of toxic waste at its source, the religious leaders who use this rhetoric to raise money and mobilize volunteers.
  3. I believe that it isn’t enough to put out the wild fires that their UNTRUTHS ignite in the Congress or the courts, in our national and local religious bodies, in state legislatures, local city councils and school boards. We must also change the minds and hearts of the arsonists.
  4. I believe that the "soul force" principles show us how to do that NONVIOLENTLY.

The Rhetoric of Jerry Falwell must be stopped NONVIOLENTLY
The publicity Jerry Falwell received from the Tinky Winky Wars made him (once again) the primary anti-homosexual spokesman in the nation. Someone has to confront the rhetoric seriously. Someone has to end it NONVIOLENTLY. Why not start with Jerry?

That is why Gary and I have invited you on this Soulforce Journey. We believe that we can learn from Gandhi and King how to change the mind and heart of Jerry Falwell.

Don’t laugh. When Dr. King said he believed that Governor Wallace could become a friend of the "negros" everybody laughed even harder. The Black Panthers and The Black Muslims called him a fool or worse. But King refused to give in to violence (of the tongue, of the fist, or even of the heart.)

He didn’t ask them to forgive or ignore Wallace either. He called his people to confront the racist Governor with the powerful tools of nonviolence. He dreamed that one day he and Wallace could live side-by-side in a "beloved community." King was assassinated before the Governor’s mind and heart were changed. But they were changed.

I was in jail in Virginia Beach (March 7, 1995) when George Wallace asked the nation to forgive his racist past. On the Edmund Pettus Bridge where state troopers bashed and bloodied demonstrators on "Bloody Sunday" (March 7, 1965), Wallace prayed for forgiveness and called us to "love one another." As I read that moving story in my cell, I prayed that, one day, Jerry and the others would understand the TRUTH and be transformed by it. Will you join us in that task?

The Case Against Jerry’s Rhetoric
We begin by building our case against Jerry’s rhetoric. We can’t confront it until we know what it is. We have collected ten years of it: books, pamphlets, letters, direct mail appeals, bulletins, faxes, videos. It goes on forever. We only ask you to read the one sample letter that follows. It is typical of Jerry’s anti-homosexual propaganda.

As you read his letter mark it with a red pen, in the spirit of Miss Jones your evil 7th grade English teacher.

Underline any thing Jerry says that is TRUE about us (or even comes close).

Underline and number the 15-20 UNTRUTHS that offend you most.

One last thing, circle the words or phrases used to incite people’s fears and stimulate their anger against GLBT people.

Now, take four deep breaths, pour yourself a strong drink, and read the letter.

READ (AND MARK) JERRY FALWELL’S LETTER
(After you’ve read the letter, copy Step 7 to your Partner on the Journey)

Love to you all,

FOOTNOTES STEP #7
(1) Suzanne Pharr, another of my "soul force" sheroes, wrote an eloquent, deeply personal account of the origins and effects of the fear of homosexuals. You can get a copy of her HOMOPHOBIA: A Weapon of Sexism, from The Women’s Project, 2224 Main, Little Rock, AR 72206. (As them to put you on their mailing list.)

(2) For American Psychological Association resources check their web page.

(3) Abraham Heschel quoted in Branch, Taylor, Pillars of Fire: America in the King Years (1963-1965), Simon & Schuster, 1998, p23.

A JERRY FALWELL FUNDRAISING LETTER TO HIS SUPPORTERS
(Undated)

[The letter was mailed in a large envelope stripped in bold yellow and black. The outside of the envelope read: "WARNING: SENSITIVE CONTENTS"]

Dear Friends,

"THE RADICAL HOMOSEXUAL ONSLAUGHT OF AMERICA IS RAGING…
I cannot believe what I have read..

The Vice President, Al Gore, and his wife, Tipper, recently entertained 150 radical homosexual leaders in their home.

I am shocked that the Vice President and his wife would invite these types of radical characters to their home.

I wonder how much of our tax funds were used to wine and dine these perverted homosexuals who absolutely hate everything that you and I and most decent, God-fearing citizens stand for.

It seems the Clinton Administration is obsessed with forcing us to accept homosexuality as normal behavior.

You remember the Clinton plan to put "gays in the military." However, that is just the tip of the iceberg…

What you may not know is that Mr. Clinton has appointed homosexuals to at least 26 top-level positions.

Recently these 26 people – gay men and lesbians – proudly posed for a group photo in "OUT," a national homosexual magazine. [A photo with a chart giving the names of each appointee is enclosed in the letter.]

For the past two years these and other Clinton appointees have been quietly forcing federal workers to accept homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle through "re-education" seminars.

I doubt if you have heard about these shocking stories. The liberal media would rather hide these facts from you.

You probably did not know our Vice-president had opened his home – the official home, owned by the taxpayers – to a horde of homosexual leaders.

It is not secret that homosexuals have an inside track, through top level White House and cabinet officials, directly to the massive federal bureaucracy.

Make no mistake. These deviants seek no less than total control and influence in society, politics, our schools and in our exercise of free speech and religious freedom.

Someone must "stand in the gap" for America’s children. Someone must not be afraid to say, "Moral perversion is wrong!"

If we do not act now, homosexuals will "own" America!

[Homosexuals] want total political approval and taxpayer money for their perverted political and social programs…

Make no mistakes my friend, this is a battle between good and evil. And the consequences for America are clear: the judgment of Almighty God on our nation.

Today, I’m asking you to take direct action.

Support Sen. Helms bill to halt the homosexual invasion of our government. Ask the Speaker of the House to pass similar legislation in the House. Send a message of disgust to Vice President Gore and his wife, Tipper, over their courtship of these perverted homosexuals in their home, a public building.

Send an immediate strong and loud message that we oppose this homosexual trampling of Judeo-Christian values.

[Use your power] to tell Washington politicians not to hand over our government to militant homosexuals.

In addition I need you to enclose a generous contribution for whatever amount you can to Liberty Alliance immediately.

If you and I do not speak up now, this homosexual streamroller will literally crush all decent men, women, and children who get in its way.

For those of us who believe in traditional moral values and refuse to openly embrace homosexuality, it may mean penalties or fines.

Preachers of the Gospel, like Jerry Falwell, who do not hesitate to call homosexuality a sin, may be imprisoned in the not-to-distant future.

I must have your help if we are to be successful. The small, but outspoken and financially well-heeled, homosexual political lobby is a dangerous foe.

They will stop at nothing, including violence, to secure their goals. I have been a target of their hatred many times.

I will be vilified by the liberal media and pro-gay politicians like homosexual Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Ted Kennedy.

WILL YOU JOIN ME IN TAKING A STAND FOR DECENCY?

I have two grandchildren. I want them to grow up in an America free from homosexual intrusion into their lives.

The radical homosexuals have made incredible, almost unbelievable gains in society in just a short time, primarily because of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Back in the 1970s, when I first began warning Americans about the homosexual threat through the Moral Majority, I had no idea they would have come this far in just a few years.

From gays in the military…to gays in the White House…in the Administration…in the Congress…as FBI agents…judicial activism on their behalf…local ordinances giving them "special rights"…to more spending for AIDS than for heart disease or cancer…all underpinned with support from Washington, the powerful national media and Hollywood movies and television.

YES – HOMOSEXUALS CERTAINLY HAVE COME OUT OF THE CLOSET – INTO OUR LIVING ROOM ON PRIME TIME TV.

And mark my words – their primary target is the nation’s public schools and our impressionable children.

That is why homosexuals are so desperately trying to make inroads in the federal bureaucracy.

Homosexuals want to use the power of the federal government to force this nation to adopt homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle and homosexuals as a bonafide minority -which would mean hiring quotas, affirmative action and ultimately forcing churches to hire homosexuals on their staff!

I pray that you will join me in fighting for America’s children and families through the Liberty Alliance…We urgently need whatever financial help you can give to underwrite the large expenses of this type of national effort.

We must stop this homosexual onslaught at all costs!

Sincerely, Jerry Falwell

PS: It is time to put a stop a stop to this homosexual invasion of our nation – through our very own federal government…Do not forget to enclose a gift of $50, $25, $15 or even $100.

NEXT: Step 8

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

The Original 17 Step Journey: Step 4

With the Rev. Dr. Mel White
"SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND SOULFORCE…"

Another Gay Man Is Murdered
"Until the day when he was beaten to death and burned, Billy Jack Gaither, 39, lived with his disabled parents in their white clapboard house, tending to their needs, cooking dinner and cleaning up, singing in the choir of his Baptist church.

"His parents swear they had no idea he was gay, but the small group of gays in Sylacauga, this central Alabama town of 13,000, knew Billy Jack Gaither as one of their own, sharing their fears of public knowledge…

"A friend who used to accompany him on the nearly 40-mile trip to the gay bars of Birmingham said Gaither would probably have escaped Sylacauga, like most gay people who grow up here, but was too devoted to his parents to contemplate leaving. He refused to hurt his deeply religious, Baptist parents by revealing his sexuality…" (1)

The soul-suffering of Billy Jack Gaither
When they found Billy’s charred body on the banks of a creek near Sylacauga, we were horrified and enraged. We stopped our busy lives again, this time to protest Billy’s death in strident editorials demanding "hate crime" legislation and in memorial rallies calling for an end to the false and inflammatory rhetoric. And we should go on protesting his death and demanding "hate crime" legislation.

But we are on this "journey into soulforce" because we want to do more than protest and demand. We want to help end the rhetoric that gives gay-bashers their license to kill and we are hoping that the teachings of Gandhi and King will help us find the way.

Now that another gay man has died, you may be tempted to rush to the end of this journey and march on Lynchburg, Virginia Beach and Colorado Springs. We want to do something, anything to help Falwell, Robertson, Dobson and the others to see how their anti-homosexual misinformation campaigns contribute directly and indirectly to the deaths of Matthew Shepard, Billy Jack Gaither and the others who have died.

I am convinced that Gandhi and King would understand our impatience. But I’m equally convinced that they would counsel us to take the whole journey before we act.

A third "soul force" belief about ourselves
Billy’s suffering began long before they beat him with an ax handle and tossed his body on a pile of blazing tires. If you are a lesbian, a gay man, a bisexual or a transgendered person, you know well how Billy suffered during those endless decades living in his lonely little closet in Sylacauga. If you are a parent, a family member, or a friend, you, too, will understand the suffering.

Billy grew up listening to the anti-homosexual rhetoric from Baptist pulpits, reading it in Baptist magazines and mailers, hearing it on Baptist radio and television programs from Baptist televangelists like Jerry Falwell.

Did the rhetoric confuse Billy Gaither? Is that why he lived for at least a quarter of a century in his lonely closet and eventually died there? Did Billy wonder if his homosexuality was a sickness and a sin? Did he live in fear of failing his parents and his God by "giving in"? When he "gave in" did he suffer guilt and more confusion? (Were the boys who killed him also victims of the rhetoric?)

What would Gandhi and King say to Billy Jack Gaither to help end his soul-suffering long before his tragic death? What would Gandhi and King say to us that would enable us to help end that kind of soul-suffering (in the lives of Matthew and Billy, in the lives of those we love, and in our own lives)?

In File #1 we reviewed the suffering of God’s gay children. With the murder of Billy Jack Gaither we are reminded that the suffering goes on.

In File #2 we heard Gandhi and King affirm one of the primary "soul force" beliefs about ourselves that will help us end that suffering. "We are body and spirit. Our body will die, but our soul will live forever."

In File #3 we heard them affirm a second primary "soul force" belief about ourselves.
"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."

How could these two simple beliefs help end the suffering of God’s outcast children?

God’s "Untouchable" children
Imagine the difference those two beliefs made in the lives of India’s "Untouchable" Caste. After centuries of being dehumanized and demeaned by the upper castes, Gandhi reminded the "Untouchables" that they were God’s children, too, created and loved by their Creator, who was with them in their struggle for justice. They weren’t sub-human, inferior, or punished by God for their sinfulness in this life or another.

Because of his commitment to these core "soul force" beliefs, Gandhi renamed the outcasts "Harijan" (Children of God). His protests and demands helped India end its injustice against the "Untouchables." (The current President of India is from the "Untouchable" caste). But Gandhi’s "soul force" belief that the "Untouchables" were eternal souls, loved by their Creator, helped free the hearts and minds of the "Untouchables" themselves long before the laws and customs changed.

God’s children of color
In sermon after sermon, Dr. King reminded the outcasts of his time, the black victims of slavery and segregation, that they too were God’s children, created and loved by God exactly as they were created, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights among them "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Today, racial minorities in American schools join Jesse Jackson in his Rainbow Coalition cheer, "I am somebody!" Jesse was there when Martin died. That cheer comes directly out of the "soul force" belief that people of color, too, are created and loved by their Creator.

God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered children
Gandhi applied "soul force" to Indian outcasts. King applied "soul force" to African-American outcasts. Now we can apply these "soul force" beliefs to our own sexual outcasts. Why shouldn’t we?

Even though Gandhi and King (like Jesus and the Jewish Prophets) were silent about sexual orientation, Gandhi’s grandson, Arun Gandhi, and Martin’s wife, Coretta Scott, have clearly extended the Soulforce heritage to God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered children.

Therefore, in the spirit of "soul force", in the spirit of the Hebrew prophets and Jesus, in the spirit of Gandhi and King, we lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people claim our equal right to be called the children of God. Now, if we can really believe it ourselves – and help our sisters and brothers to believe it – we will have taken a major step in ending the soul-suffering that comes from NOT believing it.

A third "soul force" belief about ourselves
Building on the "soul force" foundations of Gandhi and King, and following their example of inclusion, here’s a third "soul force" principle to consider:

We are created as sexual beings. Whatever our sexual orientation, 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.

Question: What difference does it make in the life of a sexual minority to know for certain that she or he is a child of God, not an accident, not a deviation, not a mistake? What difference does it make in your life?

Question: What might have happened differently in the life of Billy Jack Gaither had he heard those words and accepted them as truth when he was a child?

Question: Why does soul-suffering diminish, even end when we are finally convinced that God has created us and loves us exactly as we were created?

STOP A MOMENT TO RESPOND IN WRITING (Then copy and discuss with Partner)

The Suffering Goes On
Friends of Soulforce in Richmond, Virginia, are concerned about another hate crime in their city. The severed head of Eddie Northington, 39, ("well known in Richmond’s gay bar scene") was found last week on a James River Park footbridge. His body was found hours later, about a mile downstream in the James River.

"If this is a hate crime, it is just one of many," says Shirley Lesser of Virginians for Justice. "We’ve had cases in Charlottesville; we’ve had women killed in the Shenandoah trails; We’ve had a serial killer in Tidewater…for us, this is, as much as I hate to say it, it’s not out of the norm of experiences (for gays and lesbians)."

Northington’s parents believe he was targeted because of his sexual orientation. "Whoever did this is apparently a very sick person. No one deserves to die in that fashion, not even in war," said Harold Northington, the victim’s father. (2)

Wisely, Virginians for Justice are waiting to see what the investigation reveals before counting this new horror as a hate crime against us. Whoever did it, we ARE at war and the worst battlefield is the battlefield in our own hearts and minds. Once we’ve won that battle, once we’ve accepted our sexual orientation as a gift from God, we’re well on our way to winning the war.

Love to you all,
Mel
(1) See New York Times 3/5/99
(2) See http://www.msnbc.com/local/WWBT/61400.asp

Please be sure to see the video of Richard Attenborough’s Film "GANDHI" An RCA-Columbia Pictures Release, Winner 9 Academy Awards, 2 video tapes, 187 Minutes.

Once you’ve viewed Gandhi (with "ROMERO" as a kind of bonus video) then find the following videos in your public or rental library or your PBS store on line. Start looking at them, one at a time. These will really help you understand the rules of "soul force" in action.

PBS’ Home Video Series:
"EYES ON THE PRIZE- America’s Civil Rights Years"
Part 1: Awakenings (1954-1956),
Part 2: Fighting Back (1957-1962),
Part 3: Ain’t Scared of Your Jails (1960-1961),
Part 4: No Easy Walk (1961-1963),
Part 5: Mississippi: Is This America? (1962-1964),
Part 6: Bridge to Freedom (1965)

NEXT: Step 5

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