Monday, November 15, 2010

Preacher Comes Out in the Pulpit

It doesn't make any sense to me that people calling themselves Christians would focus so much energy on one dimension of human behavior: sexual orientation. There are real crimes out there, murders, rapes, robberies, kidnappings, there are greedy people whose selfishness brings suffering to others, there are liars and cheaters and falsifiers and deceivers -- I mean, really, there is some seriously bad stuff in the world for good people to oppose.

And then you have two people who love each other, but they're not the right two people, and all of a sudden that is the worst problem in the world, that's what the preachers spend their time preaching about. I'm not a dumb person, honest, but I cannot understand why anyone would think that homosexuality is a problem at all, never mind why it is the most important problem in America today. And even though the whole supposition is bizarre, that homosexuality is a threat to anything at all, the derivation of that supposition from the scriptural teachings of Jesus is even more bizarre. How you can take a message of love and forgiveness, tolerance of our neighbors' offenses against us, and twist it into judgment against the kind of love that some people feel?

Those who are trapped in the darkness of the church have it bad, those gay, lesbian, and transgender members of the church whose innate nature makes them the targets of the hatred of the church authorities.

One such person, trapped in a leadership position in such a church, cleared his conscience and hopefully brought a lesson in love to his congregation:
(Nov. 15) -- Despite feeling called by God to spread the gospel, he lived a lie for decades, fearing that the truth would not set him free, as John the Apostle promised, but ruin his life and his devotion to preaching.

Bishop Jim Swilley founded a Greater Atlanta house of worship in 1985 that has grown into a mega-church. He married twice and fathered four children. He traveled the country giving sermons about Christ and Christian love, but kept secret his own feelings on human desires.

But on a recent Wednesday night, he stepped out of the closet while sitting in the pulpit of his 1,200-member, nondenominational Evangelical church and announced he was gay -- something he said he neither chose nor spoke about for most of his 52 years. Some walked out. Many others stayed. Torn by Bullying Suicides, Pastor Says He's Gay

Their preacher tells him he's gay, and a bunch of them walk out. I have always thought people have some kind of internal consistency check, they monitor that their beliefs and feelings and actions are consistent with one another. So you go into church every Sunday and pray for the strength to forgive others, and then your own minister tells you his deepest, most personal secret, he asks for your understanding and love, and you stand up and insult him by walking out.
Swilley said he wanted to change hateful bullying and intolerance of homosexuals. He wanted people to know that, at least for him, it was not a choice or a calling.

"There are two things in my life that are an absolute," he told his flock. "I did not ask for either one of them; both of them were imposed upon me, I had no control over either of them. One was the call of God on my life ... and the other thing ... was my sexual orientation."

It was the recent series of suicides by gay teens that pushed him to stop living a lie, Swilley told NPR. He was especially compelled by the story of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University freshman who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate and a friend allegedly live-streamed video of a sexual encounter between a man and Clementi.

"I would hear people nearly imply that he deserved it -- you know, people would say he shouldn't have been in an act of perversion," Swilley told the public radio network. "And when I started hearing that, especially from people who professed to be Christ-like, I don't know. Something changed."

In the videotaped address to his followers, Swilley said he had recently told his parents and his children, and they stood behind him. He said his wife of 21 years, Debye, had known before they were married, but loved him anyway. The couple separated more than a year ago, but she remains an associate pastor at their cathedral in Conyers, Church in the Now, about 25 miles east of Atlanta.

And it was Debye who told him he should come clean and follow the church's motto of "real people experiencing a real God in the real world," Swilley told WSBTV in Atlanta.

His wife knew he was gay before she married him. It would be interesting to hear her story, it sounds like they stayed together nearly twenty years.
He said he's received some sharply negative reactions. "I know all the hateful stuff that's being written about me online, whatever," he said. "To think about saving a teenager, yeah, I'll risk my reputation for that.

"As a father," Swilley said through tears, "thinking about your 16-, 17-year-old killing themselves, I thought somebody needed to say something."

The pastor also said he wanted to clear up some rumors. He had not left his wife for another man, he told his congregation, which included a smiling and applauding Debye. His situation was not similar to Eddie Long, another mega-church pastor in Atlanta.

Long, an anti-gay preacher, has been sued by four young men who claim he coerced them into sex with lavish trips, gifts and jobs. Long denies the accusations.

"My position is not about gaying up the church," Swilley told CNN. "It's about people being who they are."

We have seen anti-gay gay preachers and politicians fall out of the closet, something happens and their lovers identify them publicly, or an undercover cop busts them, a reporter follows up on a hunch, those people are simply hypocrites, their lives are a cliche. They always either deny the reality of their sexual orientation or, like Ted Haggard, they claim to "struggle" with it until they pronounce themselves "cured," or somehow identify themselves as realigned with the forces of traditional repressive religion.

This is an entirely different story. This man, out of compassion for those young people who have given up their lives as a result of the harshness of social pressure on them, has risked everything to try to make things right. It will take a lot more than this, but you can be sure a lot of people down there in Georgia went home and talked about this and questioned whether some assumptions they made were unkind, harmful, incorrect.

[ Update: good interview with the minister and his wife HERE ]

20 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, we get it, Barry.

You hate America.

Just like the "dreams of your father", you take every opportunity to attack.

"Obama Children's Book Ignites Controversy

WASHINGTON (Nov. 16) -- While America languished in economic despair, its President whittled away the time, when not engaged in sightseeing around the globe, in writing a children's book. Now, we know why he waited to release it until after the election.

Today, his first book for children was released and in it, Obama praises an Indian chief who killed a U.S. General.

President Barack Obama's children's book, "Of Thee I Sing," hit bookstore shelves Wednesday.

"Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters," is Obama's lyrical ode to 13 Americans "whose traits he sees in his own children." Addressed to daughters Malia and Sasha, the picture book begins: "Have I told you lately how wonderful you are?"

His most controversial choice may be Sitting Bull, who defeated Custer at Little Bighorn.

Obama writes that Sitting Bull was "a medicine man who healed broken hearts and broken promises. It is fine that we are different." The book also says that the Lakota chief "spoke out and led his people against many policies of the United States government. He is most famous for his stunning victory in 1876 over Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer in the Battle of the Little Bighorn."

That caused a storm of derision in the blogosphere as the public learned of Obama's newest anti-American crime.

Obama also included a singer whose heroin addiction and alcoholism led to an early death. And an artist, Georgia O'Keeffe, whose paintings evoke female genitalia, as part of a book for children as young as 3 years old.

Sitting Bull illustrates how the wounds inflicted during the settling of the American West remain raw long after the "closing of the frontier" more than a century ago.

This isn't the first time controversy has erupted over "Custer's Last Stand."

In the 1990s, Bill Clinton had the National Park Service remove Custer's name from the site and rename it Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, adding a monument to the Indians who died there. The move sparked a bitter debate over historical revisionism with many saying it was like ''handing the Vietnam War memorial over to the Vietnamese.''

The current controversy isn't unexpected, said University of New Mexico historian Paul Hutton, author of more than a dozen books on the American West and military history. He said Obama's book is reflective of young people's literature since the 1970s "when Custer was sort of erased from the children's book universe."

Hutton argues that Sitting Bull is not an outlier on Obama's list of role models.

"I don't know what broken hearts and broken treaties he mended," Hutton said in reference to Obama's prose. "I don't believe he was a progressive leader by any stretch of the imagination. He was not fighting for the future, he was fighting for the past. He brought death, destruction and poverty to his people" by not seeking peace with the white man in a struggle Native Americans were doomed to lose."

November 17, 2010 1:42 PM  
Blogger Emproph said...

Bishop Jim Swilley: "To think about saving a teenager, yeah, I'll risk my reputation for that."

Here, here.

November 17, 2010 3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

where? where?

improv, if you'd like to save some teenagers' lives, you should stop supporting school programs that encourage young people to indulge in homosexuality

if even one decided to resist entering in a dangerous life in the homosexual community, it would be worth it

having a practicing homosexual go up to the school board and tell them that they are wrong to downplay the danger of homosexual deviance, would be a tremendous gesture

sure, you might hurt you reputation among your homosexual buddies but it could save the lives of teenagers

consider it

November 17, 2010 7:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous Troll"
Incredible...you have finally surpassed yourself in making emotionally disordered, ludicrous, and untruthful statements: "stop supporting school programs that encourage young people to indulge in homosexuality"

Please cite specific examples of any school programs that encourage young people to indulge in homosexuality.

"having a practicing homosexual go up to the school board and tell them that they are wrong to downplay the danger of homosexual deviance, would be a tremendous gesture"

An even greater gesture would be for you to repent of your rabid homophobia and ask your Saviour for forgiveness for your evil lifestyle!

"Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving evidence of the fact" - George Eliot
Thales

November 17, 2010 7:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thales

If a kid learns in school that homosexuality is the equivalent of heterosexuality and decides to try it out, there's a strong chance he will come to harm

no phobia, all factia

November 17, 2010 11:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"....ask your Savior for forgiveness for your evil lifestyle...."

ho ho --

Why do so many TTFers here talk in weird religious tongues, while the anons speak normally?

November 18, 2010 9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TTF = lunatic fringe gay advocates

November 18, 2010 6:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"anons speak normally"? You have got to be kidding!!

Some of the worst insults, putdowns, lies, and peudo-Christian diatribes directed at the TTFers who post here have come from the so-called "Anonymous" trolls who lurk here and spout their nonsense as if they own this blog site.

"If a kid learns in school that homosexuality is the equivalent of heterosexuality and decides to try it out, there's a strong chance he will come to harm". Kids try out all sorts of things; some even echo the bigotry of their parents. Fortunately, most of them reject their parents' values. Hate and ignorance are, after all, harmful, and unlike their parents (many of whom post their hatefulness here), the kids reject bigotry and are far more educated and accepting about the diversity of humankind then their parents.

November 18, 2010 9:20 PM  
Blogger Emproph said...

“Please cite specific examples of any school programs that encourage young people to indulge in homosexuality.”

I concur. Sociopathanon, please cite some specific examples of school programs that actually encourage students to have sex with a member of their own gender…or, perhaps you could find the integrity to admit that this is sheer conjecture on your part.

Just kidding, I know you don’t have any integrity to speak of.
---
“indulge in homosexuality
dangerous life in the homosexual community
the danger of homosexual deviance
practicing homosexual”


Define danger.
---
“If a kid learns in school that homosexuality is the equivalent of heterosexuality and decides to try it out, there's a strong chance he will come to harm”

“He?” Are lesbians in the clear then?
---
“having a practicing homosexual go up to the school board and tell them that they are wrong to downplay the danger of homosexual deviance, would be a tremendous gesture

it could save the lives of teenagers”


How?
---
Race:
5. any people united by common history, language, cultural traits, etc.: the Dutch race.
9. any group, class, or kind, esp. of persons: Journalists are an interesting race.

Congratulations, Sociopathanon, you’re officially a racist.

Here’s a suggestion for one of your protest signs: “The dictionary is persecuting us!”
---
“no phobia, all factia”

All bigota, no brainia

November 19, 2010 8:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hmmmm...looks like on November 19, improv decided to embarass himself twice in one day by expressing his thoughts on the TTF blog

here, aside from a lot of other inarticulate drooling, he discovers that everyone is a racist, robbing the term of its negative connotation

if you have a bias against industrial polluters or communists or liars, to name a few examples, improv says you're a racist

why do insane asylums allow patients as far gone as him access to computers?

November 21, 2010 6:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

really

does anyone notice that imp's preferred defintion for racism is the ninth most common?

that, my friends, is the definition of "fringe"!!

November 21, 2010 7:34 PM  
Blogger Emproph said...

3 questions
0 answers
6 ad-hominems

November 22, 2010 9:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

3 lines
0 brain cells
6 geese a-layin'

November 22, 2010 11:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"that, my friends, is the definition of "fringe"!!"

What makes you think, "Anonymous" that anyone in here is your friend? You are delusional!!

November 25, 2010 12:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would consider lots of people who read here are my cyber-friends

you have no idea how much entertainment and merriment this site provides for pro-family groups

they read...and laugh

they are so thankful TTF displays on the internet how nutty gay advocacy groups are

improv, Aunt Bea, diogenes....the cast of comedians is priceless

groups like this are what drove the most recent election results

November 25, 2010 8:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I would consider lots of people who read here are my cyber-friends"
Well...I guess having two or three friends "who read here" is a lot to brag about. Besides...we all believe that all of the "Anonymi" are not two or three but really one and the same person. You are engaging in, in your own words, "inarticulate drooling".

You know, "Anonymous"...there are lots of blog sites for psychotics like you to visit and laugh at. No doubt you ardently support the "pro-Family" agenda of divorce, incest, infidelity, abuse of spouses and children, the teaching of hate and bigotry and ignorance. Lots of that stuff to laugh at elsewhere.

November 29, 2010 12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"No doubt you ardently support the "pro-Family" agenda of divorce, incest, infidelity, abuse of spouses and children,"

I think this statement indicts you more than anything I could say.

Thanks for making it easy.

November 29, 2010 8:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You, who throw out "Homosexual agenda" at every possible opportunity find it uncomfortable to have your own behaviours identified as your agenda, huh?

Have you ever given thought to what you have to say about GLBT people says about you?

"One should examine oneself for a very long time before thinking of condemning others" - Moliere

November 29, 2010 9:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

""One should examine oneself for a very long time before thinking of condemning others" - Moliere"

did you ever consider that accusing someone of being judgmental might be, well, judgmental?

just curious if your periods of self-reflection have ever extended that far

November 29, 2010 11:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apply the same criteria to yourself, Anon When you critique and judge others you can expect that others will critique and judge you.

December 01, 2010 12:14 AM  

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