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 Original 17 Step Journey: Step 8

With the Rev. Dr. Mel White
"SEEING OUR ADVERSARIES IN A WHOLE NEW WAY"

(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,
Mel

FOOTNOTES STEP #8.
(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
Email: melwhite@soulforce.org

Tips for Follow Up Calls to Media

Media contacts should be called approximately one week after mailing the press packet.

Goals of the initial follow up call:

  • To make a quick initial introduction (make sure you quickly mention your affiliation with Soulforce and the Soulforce purpose)
  • To make sure they got the packet and/or had a chance to look at it
  • To make sure you have all the necessary contact information for them
  • To set up a good time to call and discuss the packet and the event

Please note: Initially, the goal is not to "sell the story" but to set up a convenient time to discuss it with them, so you will have more than 30 seconds of their time. If "now" is a good time for them, then go for it.

Important points about first follow up call:

  • Press people are almost always on a deadline. Please be very mindful of this. Nothing upsets a reporter more than someone who doesn’t value his or her time.
  • Always make sure that as soon as you introduce yourself you ask "Are you on deadline?" They will respect you for it. If they are, quickly ask if they received the information, and ask them for a convenient time to call back.
  • Despite all efforts, many reporters will not remember getting the packet for some reason. If they don’t have it, don’t question why, just say, "I will be happy to send it to you, what is the best address to mail it to, to make sure you receive it?" Also ask, "Is there anyone else you believe should be getting this information?" Then ask them to be on the look out for it and ask what a good day and/or time it would be for you to follow up.
  • Be enthusiastic. Nothing catches a reporter’s attention quicker than enthusiasm, or turns them off quicker than apathy.

The appointment to talk: Now is the time to sell the story

Make sure you call at the exact time you said you would follow up. Apologize profusely if you are late, as it indicates a lack of respect for their time.

Take a few seconds to re-introduce yourself, your affiliation with Soulforce, and the Soulforce purpose, and again make sure it is still a good time, reschedule again if it isn’t.

Remember, for a story to be published, it has to be local, timely, and controversial. So localize and personalize the "pitch". Dobson is controversial, our event is controversial, and there is always an issue around Dobson that makes it timely, as well as the timeliness of the event that is upcoming.

Follow guidelines on Talking to Media at www.soulforce.org/televangelists/dobson/2005action/index.shtmlHave the three most important points you want to make, and be consistent with language.

Example of personalized talking points.

1. James Dobson and Focus on the Family are the biggest sources of untruths about LBGT individuals, couples and families, and Dobson needs to be held accountable

2. If Dobson really wanted to support families, he would be encouraging long-term committed relationships, such as I have had with my partner of 10 years.

3. Dobson is not our enemy, untruth and misinformation is, and it fuels spiritual violence and fear.

Make sure you understand the principles and steps of nonviolence: Research, Dialogue/Negotiation, and Direct Action.

Go over the information in the packet, and ask if there is anything the reporter might need to write a story.

Ask the reporter if there is any interest in going to the event in Colorado Springs.

Thank the reporter for his/her time, and indicate a willingness to be called on if the reporter needs more information. Ask if the reporter plans on running a story and when. Give the reporter your contact information again.

After the call

Congratulate yourself!

Send an email to Laura@soulforce.org, indicating the media outlet, the contact information, and whether or not you know when a story is likely to run.

Do it again with another reporter 🙂

The Original 17 Step Journey: Step 9

With the Rev. Dr. Mel White
"Seeing Our Adversaries In A Whole New Way…"

A Note from Jerry Falwell

"…the death of Matthew Shepard…was senseless and tragic. My heart goes out to the families left behind. They are in my prayers. I will never condone violence or hatred against another man because of his beliefs, lifestyle or job…[But] I believe homosexuality is a sin. It is against God’s plan. As long as I am able, I will speak out against this wicked, perverse lifestyle…We are called to hate the sin but love the sinner…It is our job to love homosexuals…Through our love, these individuals can be changed…and saved by the grace of God." (Jerry Falwell in a "Letter to Faith Partners," December 1998)

A Note from A Gay Christian Teenager

"…I am a fifteen-year-old gay male teen, who is very confused….It has come down to a choice for me. Either I live my life has a gay male or as a repressed Christian. I do not want to make this choice. I don’t know what the outcome would be either way. I have been through some major depression and suicidal thoughts over this whole problem and I am finally wanting to get help. I saw your profile and noticed that you are a gay Christian. I was wondering if you could email me back or IM me and tell me if it is possible to be gay and Christian… My main reason for emailing you is in hopes that you will find compassion on me and help me out. Please respond soon…

*[This young man changed his AOL name immediately after sending this plea for help apparently because he was afraid to leave a return address. It happens almost daily.]

A Note from Mel
"Aaaarrrgggghhhh!!!"
(Charlie Brown in Peanuts)

Untruth Disguised as Love
We are all frustrated by this (seemingly) endless cycle of UNTRUTH in sheep’s clothing. Jerry Falwell believes that he loves the "sinner" (his TRUTH) even as he accuses us of being "wicked," "perverse," and "lost" (his UNTRUTH). This mixed message leads to suffering and death. The gay Christian teenager (above) is another of its many victims.

People who read my autobiography Stranger at the Gate often ask why it took so long for me to understand and accept the TRUTH. It is simple. UNTRUTH (packaged as "loving the sinner") is powerful. For 35 years I was its victim. When TRUTH set me free, I got angry at Falwell for his UNTRUTHS instead of helping him to hear the TRUTH.

Soulforce shows us a way to get Jerry to listen. I’m just not sure I have the courage to follow Gandhi and King on that journey. It’s easier to keep Jerry as an enemy than to do what it takes to make him our friend. But I dare us all to try. Today that journey begins.

A Review
In Soulforce Files 1-6 we saw ourselves as our Creator sees us. It’s the reason I can say without fear or doubt, "I am gay. I am proud. And God loves me without reservation."

In Soulforce Files 7-8 we saw Jerry as our Creator sees him. How can we hate a brother who is a victim of misinformation as we have been?

The Secret of Soulforce:
TRUTH in LOVE

It isn’t enough to NOT hate Jerry. His UNTRUTH is killing us and, I believe, killing him. If we really LOVE Jerry, we can’t just "love him" and walk away. To allow him to continue being a victim of UNTRUTH (and in the process, allow him to go on making victims of us all) would be cowardly. Soulforce calls us to do everything in our power to help him hear the TRUTH until he is transformed by it. Gandhi and King tell us how.

If LOVE is the heart of Soulforce, TRUTH is the sharp-edged sword in her hand. TRUTH pierces the heart of UNTRUTH and sets its captives free. But LOVE must guide the sword of TRUTH. I’m not trying to wax poetic. Gandhi and King say it over and over again. LOVE (NONVIOLENCE) is the criterion by which our actions (to present TRUTH and to confront UNTRUTH) must be judged. But LOVE without action is not love at all.

You read Jerry’s awful letter in File #7. If you haven’t, read it now. That’s his TRUTH about homosexuals. What is your TRUTH about God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgendered children? To LOVE Jerry is to present him your TRUTH (in LOVE).

Step #1
Share your personal TRUTH with Jerry

Now, the real "Journey into Soulforce" begins. Today’s assignment is simple. Write a letter to Jerry. TODAY! Share your own personal TRUTH with him (in a brief paragraph or in pages). Or, share with him the story of someone you know and love. If you feel that you must disguise your name and address, tell him why. Move his heart! His letter (File #7) demeans and dehumanizes God’s GLBT people. Tell him who we really are.

The primary way that people are changed (from hating us to loving us) is by knowing us.

Step#2
Enclose a photo

Add a photo of yourself or of the person whose story you are sharing. Let’s place on Jerry’s desk a thousand stories and a thousand faces. This requires a little more time (to find a photo) and a small risk to your privacy. But what a difference it could make.

Step#3
Email the letter to your partner on this "Journey…"

Exchange letters. Discuss them before sending them to Jerry. Learn each other’s story.

Step #4
Copy your letter/photo and send the copies to me

— SEND THEM IN THE MAIL. DO NOT EMAIL THEM TO ME — I’m going to place the copies of your letters and photos in a beautiful leather-bound book. One day soon I hope to deliver that book to Jerry (just in case he didn’t pay attention to his mail.) Maybe you will help me deliver them to Lynchburg (but let’s not jump ahead.)

I know what some of you may be thinking:

"What if he shares my secret with the world?"
(He won’t. But if he did, it would be wonderful for the world and for you.)

"What if he adds my address to his mailing list?"
(I doubt it, but he might. If he does, it won’t hurt you to know what he’s saying.)

"What if he tells my Mom that I’m a lesbian?"
(Don’t worry, he doesn’t know your mother. Besides, she already knows you’re a lesbian.)

It may be only one small step for you to send a (loving, deeply personal) letter to Jerry.

BUT, if enough of us share our stories, if enough of us tell Jerry the TRUTH about God’s GLBT children, if enough of us are willing to take this small risk, I’m convinced that the Spirit of Truth will take our tiny effort and use us in ways we never dreamed.

Before you write
Review the first two Soulforce Credos in File #6 and File #8. Let the powerful yet gentle spirit of LOVE guide you as you write. Remember, Jerry is your brother, a victim of ancient UNTRUTH. Bring him TRUTH in LOVE and don’t be surprised by what happens.

SEND YOUR ORIGINAL LETTER/PHOTO TO:

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, Pastor
Thomas Road Baptist Church
701 Thomas Road
Lynchburg, Virginia 24502

SEND A COPY OF YOUR LETTER/PHOTO TO:

The Rev. Jerry Falwell
% Dr. Mel White
Soulforce, Inc.
P.O. Box 4467
Laguna Beach, CA. 92652

Love (and thanks) to you all,
Mel

NEXT: Step 10

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

Soulforce Pledge to Nonviolence

Take The Pledge to Nonviolence — print and sign.

Pledge to Nonviolence
The Pledge to Nonviolence
Originally written by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Modified by Soulforce, Inc. 2003

  1. As I prepare for this direct action, I will meditate regularly on the life and teachings of Gandhi and King and other truth-seekers.
  2. I will remember that the nonviolent movement seeks justice and reconciliation-not victory.
  3. I will walk and talk in the manner of love and nonviolence.
  4. I will contemplate daily what I can do so that all can be free.
  5. I will sacrifice my own personal wishes that all might be free.
  6. I will observe with friend and foes the ordinary rules of courtesy.
  7. I will perform regular service for others and for the world.
  8. I will refrain from violence of fist, tongue, and heart.
  9. I will strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
  10. I will follow the directions of the squad leaders and other Soulforce leaders on our nonviolent direct actions.

______________________________________
(Your Name)

_______________________
(Date)

The Original 17 Step Journey: Step 11

With the Rev. Dr. Mel White
"The Journey Gets Dangerous…"

ONCE UPON A TIME…
An athletic young woman jogged on a path beside a deep, rushing river. In the stillness she heard a faint cry for help. A young boy was caught in the current and if not rescued, would surely die. The young woman dove into the river, grasped the boy’s shoulders, and pulled him to the shore. She dried him, gave him a drink of water from her Evian bottle and a Power Bar from her fanny pack. A camper who witnessed the rescue built a fire to help warm the shivering child.

Suddenly, our Sheroe heard another cry for help. This time, a young woman was being swept away. To save her, the athlete dove into the icy waters once again. Moments after saving a second victim from the rapids, she heard another cry for help and then another. Fortunately, other hikers and campers had heard the cries and came running. Some joined in the rescue. Others shared their food and water, built fires, or wrapped victims in their own warm coats and blankets.

The river provided endless victims. Before long dozens of brave rescuers were in the water while the river bank was crowded with volunteers building fires, sharing food and blankets, reviving and restoring those who had nearly drowned.
(STORY TO BE CONTINUED IN FILE#12)

The Journey to Justice Begins…
Gandhi and King insist that "doing justice" happens in two stages (simultaneously):
I. We begin doing justice by helping those who suffer injustice.
II. We continue doing justice by cutting off the suffering at its source.

The story above (at least this first half) illustrates the first Soulforce priority. Picture it. A river filled with people in distress and volunteers at work rescuing, reviving, and renewing the almost drowned. Sound familiar? That’s where ‘doing justice’ begins.

Gandhi says that before we march off to confront our adversary we must help our adversaries’ victims: "…through quiet, solid, substantial work in direct personal service of the victims of injustice, suffering for them, organizing them, educating them in the ways of nonviolence and thus bringing about a peaceful atmosphere of solemn determination.." (1)

I believe that you wouldn’t be on this journey if you weren’t already involved in healing the wounded of our community. I am certain that you are among the most generous donors of time, money, and energy to the "constructive programs" that provide "direct personal service to those who suffer." Here’s a little quiz to help you remember why you’re so tired and broke.

A Quiz for Volunteers*
1. Underline the programs you support.
2. Cross out the programs you don’t support.
3. Estimate your monthly financial donations.
4. Estimate your monthly volunteer hours.

*[Those of us who are concerned about the liberation of sexual minorities must also remember that members of other persecuted and neglected minorities need justice, too. We also help our cause when we volunteer to send money to help the Kosovar refugees, or tutor a child from the ghetto, or paint out swastikas on a vandalized Jewish synagogue, or build a home with Habitat for Humanity, or serve in a soup kitchen, or change bed pans in a hospice, or teach English as a second language, or manage a teen hotline. Wherever you serve, include it on the list below.]

A Constructive Program You Support Mthly Donations Mthly Volunteer Hrs
HIV/AIDS Research & Services    
Breast Cancer Research & Services    
Community Center    
Food or Clothing Bank    
Free-Clinic    
Legal and Financial Aid    
Tutoring and Job Training    
Housing and Emergency Shelter    
Hospice Care    
Hot Line or Counseling Center    
Church, Synagogue, or other Faith Group    
AA or other 12 Step Program    
PFLAG or other Parent/Family/Friend Organization    
Project Ten or other Teen or Youth Based Program    
Other: (Write in a program that you support)    

[NOTE: I’m not including our national, state, and local activist organizations in this list. We’ll remember them in File #12.]

Once Upon A Time (Another Version)
An athletic young woman jogged on a path beside a deep, rushing river. In the stillness she heard a faint cry for help. A young boy was caught in the current and if not rescued, would surely die. The young jogger rushed home, wrote a tax-deductible check to SDS (Save Drowning Boys), and hurried off to brunch.

QUESTION
In the first version, the young woman dives into the water and swims against the current to save others. What has she risked personally? But what has she gained in the process? In this shorter version, the young woman writes a check and hurries off to brunch. What has she risked? What has she lost in the process?

WRITE YOUR ANSWERS HERE

Once Upon A Time (A Version Closer Home)
A closeted gay man feels lonely and afraid. Desperate for support, he sneaks into a UFMCC or a "Welcoming" congregation or a PFLAG chapter or an AA meeting or a Community Center discussion group. He gets help and stays long enough to feel a lot better about himself. He finds a new circle of supportive gay friends. He may even find a partner. Then, he returns to another kind of closet in the suburbs where he and his partner live "happily ever after" reading Architectural Digest, buying antiques, taking cruises, and every 3-4 years joining the March on Washington. At the end of each year, he makes a tax-deductible donation to the "constructive program" of his choice. Occasionally he wonders why he doesn’t feel satisfied. Now and then he even asks himself, "Isn’t life more than this?"

QUESTION
The organizations that rescue, revive, and renew our wounded are desperate for donations and for volunteers. If you are already giving time and money to the cause, how has it benefited your life? If you aren’t giving time and money, ask yourself why?

WRITE YOUR ANSWER HERE
Forward and Discuss with Your Partner

GIVING TIME AND MONEY TO THE CAUSE DEVELOPS OUR OWN SOULFORCE

Gandhi and King have convinced me that our own wounds cannot heal, that we have not realized our own human potential, that we will not be truly liberated until we give our lives (at least in part) to helping others.

In this case "suffering for others" (as Gandhi says) is not an obligation, something we should do out of guilt or gratitude. "Suffering for others" is the path to our own liberation. Giving time, money, and creative energy to the cause, "helping those who suffer" is not an obligation. It is the final step to healing ourselves.

Gandhi suggests these two reasons why we never get around to helping others.
1. Instead of controlling our "passions", we are controlled by them.
2. Instead of limiting our possessions, we "need" more and more and more for ourselves with little left to share with others.

In short, to help those who suffer (and at the same time, to liberate ourselves) Gandhi calls us to these two disciplines:

First, he suggests we learn to control our "passions."
Second, he suggests we learn to limit our possessions.

A personal note…
I don’t pretend to understand, let alone exemplify, these next two disciplines. Gandhi himself was seen as a "fanatic" in his rather puritanical views about sex. Dr. King had struggles of his own. But in the following two Soulforce Credos, Gandhi points us to truths we need to consider seriously. And the more I learn about Gandhi and King from those who knew them best, the more I am convinced that controlling our passions and limiting our possessions are disciplines that lead to our own liberation and to the renewal of society.

A SOULFORCE CREDO ABOUT PERSONAL PASSION

  1. I believe that my life itself is a gift from my Creator.
  2. I believe that my Creator means for me to live my life fully.
  3. I believe that I cannot live life fully if I am dominated by my appetite for food, or sex, or alcohol, or drugs, or entertainment, or travel, or position, or power.
  4. I believe that I will live life fully only if I control my passions and allow my best self to be set free to join with my Creator in helping those who suffer.

WRITE YOUR RESPONSE TO THE CREDO ABOVE
Share with your Partner on this Journey

A SOULFORCE CREDO ABOUT PERSONAL POSSESSIONS

  1. I believe that every thing I possess is a gift from my Creator.
  2. I believe that I will find new freedom if I limit my possessions to those things I really need to survive.
  3. I believe that I am just a trustee over all my other possessions.
  4. I believe that my life will be enriched and empowered if I use my other possessions to help those who suffer.

WRITE YOUR RESPONSE TO THE CREDO ABOVE
Forward and Discuss with your Partner

Wherever you are on your own journey to soulforce, I am NOT asking you to sign these two powerful credos. But will you join me in considering them…daily? You might even print them and keep them around to help you remember.
Love to you all,
Mel

Sources:
(1) Gandhi in "Harijan," May 18, 1940, p 129 quoted in The Political Philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, by Gopinath Dhawan, Navajivan Publishing House, 1946, p 191.

PS:
Have you rented the video ROMERO yet? This true story of the life and death of the Archbishop of El Salvador is a MUST SEE.If you can’t find ROMERO, rent or borrow THE MISSION (with Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Irons)! These are both dramatic explorations of Soulforce at work. Viewing them will inspire and inform your own personal journey.Remember, call you Public Library before renting either video. You might find them there.

NEXT: Step 12

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 10

With the Rev. Dr. Mel White
"The Call to Risk…"

From an Email I received February 23, 1999
"Dear Mel…I will continue to voice my opinions with ridicule, disgust, animosity and yes, even hate towards the likes of Falwell…They deserve it all…Even if you want to love them Mel, go right ahead, but I will not be undermined, by you or anyone else, in my determination to bash back, verbally or otherwise…"

A Personal Response
When Jesus said "Love your enemies"…
    Jews were enslaved by the Roman Empire.
When Gandhi said "Love your enemies"…
    Indians were being massacred by British guns.
When King said "Love your enemies"…
    African-Americans were being lynched by the KKK.

Many militant Jews, Indians, and African-Americans hated Jesus, Gandhi, and King for preaching nonviolence in the face of violent oppression. Who can blame them? It sounds like "giving up" and "giving in" to intolerance, suffering and death.

Quite to the contrary, "love your enemies" is a call to action. In File 9 we took the first small step in that direction. I asked you to write a letter to Jerry Falwell guided by the

THREE PRIMARY SOULFORCE RULES FOR DOING JUSTICE:

RULE #1.
You told Jerry the TRUTH as you have experienced it.
Truth is our strength and our ultimate goal.

RULE #2.
You told your TRUTH in the spirit of LOVE (NONVIOLENCE).
Love is our guide.

RULE #3. You told your TRUTH in LOVE even if it caused you
VOLUNTARY REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING.
Voluntary suffering (being willing to suffer for the sake of our adversary) is the secret of Soulforce, the most powerful way to change the minds and hearts of our adversaries.

OK. I admit it didn’t take much "suffering" to write Jerry. But consider it. You volunteered at least an hour of your valuable time and energy to write him. You spent at least $1 on paper, ink, and stamps. You shared intimate, personal truths. And if you signed your name, included your address, and even sent a photo, you took a small risk that Jerry would use those truths against you.

Gandhi called this "VOLUNTARY REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING." Our adversary will NOT be convinced by arguments, no matter how brilliant. Nasty sound bites (though clever) only increase the tension. But when your adversary sees that you are willing to risk "VOLUNTARY REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING" he is stunned, confused and impressed by your sincerity. Violence incites to hate. Nonviolence (taking on suffering for our adversaries sake) is more powerful than hate.

Back to the Tinky Winky Wars (where this all began) When I said, "Bashing Jerry Falwell hurts our cause," an activist-writer-friend disagreed.

From an Email I received March 5, 1999
"…I think that making fun of and matching our enemies blow for blow in the media, is the only strategy for survival. Non-violence is not the same thing as laying back and taking their shit…

Unfortunately, too many people think that NONVIOLENCE is "…laying back and taking their shit." In fact, Soulforce has just the opposite goal. Loving Jerry Falwell is a Soulforce call to take his "s—" seriously, a call to help end his campaign of misinformation (a Gandhian way of saying "s—") through militant nonviolent resistance.

Rule #3 – the Soulforce call to VOLUNTARY REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING – is especially offensive to one gay activist who wrote me angrily, "How dare you call our community to suffer more when we’ve suffered so much already?" Gandhi sees two kinds of suffering.

Matthew and Billy (Involuntary Suffering)
Matthew Shepard and Billy Jack Gaither did NOT suffer voluntarily. Gandhi does NOT call us to involuntary suffering. Matt and Billy Jack did not have a choice. And though their suffering caused great good (because it helped soften the minds and hearts of millions of people), it is NOT the kind of suffering Gandhi has in mind. A choice must be involved.

Jimmy and Greg (Voluntary Suffering)
The Reverends Jimmy Creech and Gregory Dell are two courageous United Methodist ministers who had a choice. Each man was asked by a same-sex couple in his congregation to perform their Holy Union service. Each man knew that if he performed that Holy Union he could be brought up on charges, tried, and found guilty by a church court. Jimmy and Gregory both decided to take that risk on behalf of TRUTH and both men suffered great personal and professional loss from the trials that followed.

Gandhi defines Soulforce "suffering" as "VOLUNTARY" (it must involve a choice) and "REDEMPTIVE" (it must be an active attempt to achieve a greater good).

A Personal Memory
For 35 years I lived in a lonely, fearful, guilt-ridden closet. That was involuntary suffering caused by the UNTRUTH that flowed into my brain from childhood. After thirty-five years of ex-gay therapy, a loving counselor at Fuller Theological Seminary told me the TRUTH. "You are gay," she said. "Accept it as a gift from God." Dr. Hart brought me TRUTH in LOVE and in the process risked VOLUNTARY REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING on my behalf. I was set free. She was fired. She and I both learned quickly, that doing justice requires risk.

From an Email I received March 28, 1999
"Thank you for taking on this monumental task. I just wanted to make one comment that so far seems to have been lacking in your messages–one which is very important…Both Gandhi and King and their followers suffered mightily (often physically beaten — to the point of death in some cases) at the hands of their oppressors before they came close to achieving their goals.

"A very major question for those of us in the GLBT community to answer is, are we willing to submit ourselves to the same kind of abuse, and meet it with nonviolence, in order to bring TRUTH to OUR oppressors. To be honest, I’m pretty sure I’m not ready for that. Perhaps I will get there, but for right now…. It scares the hell out of me…"

The Journey Becomes Dangerous
How right she is. The call to do justice guided by the Soulforce rules is not a call to "laying back." It is a call to make choices that may lead to redemptive suffering on your part and on mine.

From the moment you wrote (or decided not to write the letter to Jerry) this "Journey into Soulforce" became a series of complex and risky choices. I hope you’ll continue the journey. I’m convinced that your own soul will grow more powerful in the process, but I don’t want you to continue under false pretenses. From this moment, the journey becomes dangerous.

Our souls grow or shrivel from the choices we make. Reading these Soulforce Files is no longer an academic exercise. If, for example, you decided NOT to write Jerry Falwell, it may be a warning that you are not ready to continue the journey. Harvey Cox said it this way, "NOT to decide is to decide.’"

QUESTIONS FOR THOSE WHO WROTE TO JERRY FALWELL:
What decision(s) did you make when you decided to express your TRUTH to Jerry? Was it more difficult to write in the spirit of LOVE than of hate? Did you risk VOLUNTARY REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING in the process of writing or mailing the letter? What did you learn about yourself through this exercise? Would you recommend that others write and send their letter, too? Why? Why not?

WRITE HERE YOUR ANSWERS
It’s helpful to discuss your answers with your partner on this journey.

QUESTIONS FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT WRITTEN JERRY:
By NOT writing Jerry, what decision(s) have you made? Are you uncertain of your TRUTH? Are you too angry to write Jerry in LOVE? What kind of VOLUNTARY REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING were/are you afraid to risk? Did you think writing Jerry was a waste of time? Does that mean you’ve given up on him? Are you ready to write now?

WRITE HERE YOUR ANSWERS
Then copy File #10 and forward it to your partner.

THREE MORE SOULFORCE CREDOS

Here are three credos based on the three primary rules of Soulforce discussed above. I’m not asking you to sign them. But I do hope you’ll consider them seriously.

Print them. Study them. Rewrite them. Discuss them with your partner.

1.
Vow to Truth

I believe that I am called by my Creator to seek the truth, to live by the truth, and to confront untruth wherever I find it.

2.
Vow to Love

I believe that I am called by my Creator to reject violence (of the fist, tongue, or heart) and to use only the methods of nonviolence in my search for truth or in my confrontation with untruth.

3.
Vow to voluntary redemptive suffering

I believe that I am called by my Creator to take on myself without complaint any suffering that might result from my confrontation with untruth and to do all in my power to help my adversary avoid all suffering, especially that suffering that may result from our confrontation.

Hold On! Here we Go!
In the FILES 11-16 Gandhi and King will ask us to make some very difficult choices. I don’t know where this will lead us as partners on this journey, but I can’t tell you how excited I am to find out.

But please, DO WRITE YOUR LETTER TO JERRY FALWELL. Indulge me. I know it may seem silly or a waste or an invasion of your life to insist on this exercise in Soulforce, but I think you will find it worth your effort. If not, I love you anyway.

Love (and thanks) to you all,

Mel

PS: IF YOU HAVEN’T WRITTEN TO JERRY FALWELL
Before you write

Review the first two Soulforce Credos in File #6 and File #8. Let the powerful yet gentle spirit of LOVE guide you as you write. Remember, Jerry is your brother, a victim of ancient UNTRUTH. Bring him TRUTH in LOVE and if it causes you to experience a taste of VOLUNTARY REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING it will cause your soul to grow.

SEND YOUR ORIGINAL LETTER/PHOTO TO:

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, Pastor
Thomas Road Baptist Church
701 Thomas Road
Lynchburg, Virginia 24502

SEND A COPY OF YOUR LETTER/PHOTO TO:
(For mounting in a leather-bound book to present to Jerry later)
The Rev. Jerry Falwell
% Dr. Mel White
Soulforce, Inc.
P.O. Box 4467
Laguna Beach, CA. 92652

NEXT: Step 11

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 12

With the Rev. Dr. Mel White
"The Call to Risk Action…"

HELP CUT OFF THE SUFFERING AT ITS SOURCE
Do you remember the story from File #11 of a young women who dove into the river to rescue and revive a drowning boy? It was just one of the parables told to make Gandhi’s point. Let’s pick up the story where we left it.

Once Upon a Time (Part 2.)
The river provided an endless flow of victims. Soon, dozens of brave rescuers were in the water and the riverbank was crowded with volunteers building fires, sharing food and blankets, reviving and restoring those who had nearly drowned.

Our Sheroe spent the next few hours rushing in and out of the water, rescuing and reviving the innocent victims. Exhausted, she finally stopped long enough to ask herself the obvious question, "Why are so many people drowning?"

Feeling rather embarrassed that it had taken her so long to ask the obvious question, our Sheroe put on her hiking boots and began a search up river. Rounding a bend, she was surprised to find a group of men and women, boys and girls throwing people into the rushing waters. It didn’t take long to discover that this strange community genuinely believed that the world would be a better place if certain of their number were drowned.

Our Sheroe tried to explain the tragic consequences of their belief. The Drowners wouldn’t listen. She reasoned. She demanded. She threatened. She begged. It seemed that nothing could convince them to stop this dangerous and deadly practice. So our Sheroe returned to the river bank, warned volunteers that they would be there "for the long haul," and dove back into the icy waters.

The Moral of the Story…
Gandhi would praise the young woman for helping those who suffered. But he would also remind her (and us) that helping those who suffer is not enough. The second stage of doing justice is to help end the suffering at its source. Deitrich Bonhoeffer, the young German pastor who was hanged by the Nazis for his role in the resistance, said it this way.

"…Our role is NOT just to bandage the victims pulled out from under the wheel, but to put a spoke in the wheel itself…
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dr. King warns us that we have just three ways to respond to the sources of injustice (in this case, the Drowners).

1. We can ACQUIESCE, hoping that the Drowners will realize the truth on their own (or through someone else’s intervention) and stop the drownings.

2. We can respond with VIOLENCE, (of the heart, the tongue, or fist) hating the Drowners, screaming back at them, wishing or even causing their death.

3. Or we can work to end the drownings by changing the minds and the hearts of the Drowners through RELENTLESS NONVIOLENT RESISTANCE (SOULFORCE).

If we acquiesce (sit silently by), we may lose everything. If we respond with violence, it will simply lead to more violence and never result in reconciliation. Nonviolent Soulforce provides us a reasonable (though difficult and demanding) option of response.

But the rules or principles of soulforce as taught by Gandhi and King are not well known in our community. We’ve reviewed the basic rules in Files #1-11. In brief, they are these:

THE BASIC SOULFORCE ASSUMPTIONS
(How Gandhi and King would have us think.)

ONE PREMISE:
"…to see my adversary as a VICTIM OF UNTRUTH as I have been."

ONE TASK:
"…to bring TRUTH to my adversary and to hear her TRUTH as well."

ONE METHOD:
"…to be guided by LOVE (NONVIOLENCE) exclusively."

ONE SECRET:
"…to accept VOLUNTARY REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING without retaliation or complaint as a means of convincing my adversary of my sincerity."

ONE GOAL:
"…to seek RECONCILIATION with (not victory over) my adversary.

The brief summary of the "Basic Soulforce Assumptions" (see above) is the way Gandhi and King would have us THINK. We’ve spent Files 1-11 on thinking. Now it’s time to ACT.

THE BASIC SOULFORCE ACTIONS
(How Gandhi and King would have us act.)
A Soulforce "check list" for ACT-ivists

I. …commit and recommit ourselves to the Soulforce principles of nonviolence;

II. …research the case against our adversary carefully, in print, audio, and video;

III. …negotiate with our adversary first: amicably, relentlessly, but if this fails;

IV. …educate the media, our allies, and the allies of our adversary;

V. …recruit and train allies for direct action;

VI. …confront our adversary with direct action to move negotiations forward;

VII. …negotiate a third position that will satisfy us both;

VIII. …reconcile with our adversary, the ultimate goal of Soul Force.

You can apply this LIST to any creating change effort.
Here’s how I apply it to Jerry.

I. COMMIT: Gandhi and King warn us that giving up on our adversary is an act of violence. I am committed to applying the Soulforce principles to my life, to Jerry’s life, and to the lives of Robertson, Dobson, John Paul II, and the other primary sources of misinformation.

II. RESEARCH: We have collected nine years of Jerry’s rhetoric in print, audio and video. You read one of the letters in File #7. Here’s a quote from File #14. Where do you think this kind of rhetoric leads?

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

The national discourse has been polluted. We have traced that flow of toxic waste to its source. We have compiled the UNTRUTH and we have reason to believe that the UNTRUTH leads directly and indirectly to suffering and death. Now we must stop the flow.

III. NEGOTIATE: Last year, Jerry agreed to see me if I "wouldn’t tell the media." Until now, that visit has been a secret. Now, however, you need to know that I spent a full morning reviewing the evidence with Jerry, his lawyer son, and his closest associate, Mark DeMos. He has ignored that evidence and renewed his anti-homosexual campaign. We tried to reach him quietly, behind the scenes. Now, it’s time for DIRECT PUBLIC ACTION.

IV. EDUCATE: We need to take our case against Jerry’s rhetoric to the nation. (Guided by the Spirit of Soulforce) we must expose the UNTRUTH and confront it with TRUTH. Until people see and hear the toxic rhetoric, they will not know why Jerry is not just "the village idiot" but one of the most dangerous men in America.

V. RECRUIT: We need to recruit and train a Soulforce Network of friends who are willing to take on Jerry and the other sources of UNTRUTH. This Journey into Soulforce is a start.

VI.CONFRONT: I’m hoping that TOGETHER during Files # 13-16 we will plan together the DIRECT PUBLIC ACTIONS that will help Jerry take seriously the tragic consequences of his rhetoric and get him to seriously negotiate and end to it.

VII.NEGOTIATE: In File #13 we will look closely at the Soulforce Rules for Negotiation that Gandhi used in India and that King used in the U.S. In File #14-15 we will examine their Soulforce Rules for Direct Action (that lead our adversary to negotiate with us seriously.)

VIII. RECONCILE: Our goal is not to triumph over Jerry nor to silence or censor him, but to create a world (in King’s words "a beloved community") where we all can live in peace.

AN INVITATION TO ACT
The Soulforce Principles convince me that Jerry Falwell is my brother. We are children of the same Creator. Jerry is not an EVIL man, but because he is a victim of misinformation, he is doing great EVIL to himself and to millions of others. Most have given up on changing Jerry’s mind and heart. I am convinced that it is a tragic mistake to give up on Jerry and on these other primary sources of misinformation.

Until we stop the "drowners" we’ll never be able to end this endless cycle of rescue and renewal. Until we stop these "arsonists" we’ll never put out the fires of intolerance they ignite in Washington D.C. and in cities and towns around the world. And, until we try, we’ll never know the power of Soulforce in our lives and in the lives of those looking on.

WE CLOSE TODAY’S FILE WITH A SHORT QUESTIONNAIRE.
Please forward and discuss your answers with your Partner on this Journey…

1. Although I support our local, state, and national lobby organizations* that struggle to put out the anti-homosexual fires in the Congress and the courts, the Statehouse and the school board, I agree with Mel that someone has to take on the arsonists like Jerry Falwell whose rhetoric ignites those fires and provides the fuel to keep them burning.
YES / NO / NOT SURE

2. I believe that Jerry Falwell is my brother, a child of God, who is a victim of misinformation as I have been. I agree with Mel that he is probably sincere but like the father who had his son lobotomized (because he believed sincerely in the process) Jerry is sincerely wrong to condemn God’s bisexual, transgendered, lesbian, and gay children? I agree that Jerry’s followers are also victims and by liberating Jerry we help liberate Them.
YES / NO / NOT SURE

3. I agree that giving up on Jerry is a mistake and that if we take him on seriously, guided by the Soulforce Rules of Relentless Nonviolent Resistance, we have a chance to change his mind and heart. In the process of confronting Jerry’s rhetoric, we will also have a chance to change the minds and hearts of millions of others through the media. More important, by taking a personal stand, I will find my own spirit refreshed and renewed.
YES / NO / NOT SURE

4. Even though my schedule is already full to overflowing, I am going to read the last four Files in this Journey SERIOUSLY and if the DIRECT ACTION that we decide on TOGETHER seems feasible I will probably help in some way to see it accomplished.
YES / NO / NOT SURE

PLEASE FORWARD AND DISCUSS YOUR RESPONSES WITH YOUR PARTNER

Love and Peace to you all,
Mel

Link here for a List of our National Activist Organizations and how to contact them.

NEXT: Step 13

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