What makes a company “pro-gay”?

Church this morning nearly gave me a migraine. See, a fair portion of the service was related to all the Chick-Fil-Hate hullabaloo this week, and the deep pain that it caused so many people. I’d spent the week arguing, raging, seething and hurting over the immense hatred that was flowing from the “gotta have straight chicken” and their “but what about the free speech red herring?” compatriots. It was an exhausting week, and while it was wonderful and healing to be amidst folks who shared in the hurt, just revisiting the topic sent my neck and shoulders back into the tension of that rage. The pastor’s message of “Hold on, better times are coming” was wonderful, but I still needed a massage when I got home.

While the plate was passed for the offering the image below was projected up onto the wall, I assume as a reminder that there are companies who aren’t trying to have people killed for being gay.

The image, and the idea behind it, just don’t sit well with me. You can see HRC’s criteria for their Corporate Equality Index here. That’s the list of things they use to determine if a company is “pro-gay” as described in the above image.

But there’s so much that they leave out. Coca-Cola may have wonderfully inclusive insurance, and they may include orientation and identity protections in their hiring procedures, but they also have a history of murdered union workers in their bottling plants in central America. What does it matter if they won’t discriminate against you for being gay if they’re just going to have you killed for demanding safe working conditions and fair wages. Their corporate headquarters may be a great place for LGBT people to work, but I’d bet those plants are not.

The same can be said of the factories that produce Apple products, Nike’s sweatshops, Gap’s sweatshops and Hershey’s child-slave farmed chocolate. Even here in the US, Starbucks has a history of union busting. Those are just the ones I knew about off the top of my head!

Hiring practices and sponsoring Pride parades don’t mean jack when you’re mistreating and killing your employees. You can’t be pro-gay and pro-slavery. Queer people are slaves. Queer people are union organizers. Queer people are textile workers in sweatshops.

Playing nice in the public eye doesn’t make you “pro-gay,” not when your murder, exploitation, slavery and unfair business practices affect queer employees and their families. You can’t be “pro-gay” when you’re anti-human.

Stories to be told, but not yet

There’s something powerful about sharing our stories and speaking from experience. About releasing what, until moments ago, was an unspoken secret. To let it go. To take it out into the open and inspect it.

Brian Gerald Murphy

I have a story to be told. It’s one of pain and determination and fear and abuse and, at the time, love, though I have a hard time believing that now. It’s a story of being trapped, of being powerless in the worst way. A story of constant threat, of being used. It’s a story of trying to save someone who was trying to destroy me. It’s a story of hope destroyed, of humiliation and of wounds that just haven’t fully healed, and probably never will.

It’s a story that’s pivotal in my becoming who I am. It’s a story that shaped how I relate to others. It’s a story that, in some ways, moved my queerness from theoretical to actual.

I hope I can share that story one day, openly. But for now it’s too frightening, both to revisit those days in my heart and to open myself up to the barbs of those who will judge me for it.

It’s a story I don’t want anymore. It’s a story I want to let go.

The Foundation is No Foundation

Recently, in a discussion on reddit, a group of us were asked “Do you believe in the Resurrection?” Frustrated by how an answer given did not fit into the desired framework(s), it was insisted that “Your beliefs have a theological foundation. We want to see that foundation.” Unhappy with a theological/theopoetic answer, some insisted that we find ways to fit into their boxes. They wanted the foundation, the ultimate truth on which all of our theologies were built.

The only response I could give was “The foundation is no foundation.”

“An empty shell!” The charge rang out. “If there is no foundation, the belief system is an empty shell.”

I know I sounded like I was spouting some sort of koan, and I know that many reading that discussion felt as though I was, along with others, dodging the questions. There was no dodging, and if an empty shell I inhabit, then so be it. But what some see as emptiness, I experience as space made for relationship.

The foundation is no foundation.

For a belief system to be solid, they say, it must have a solid foundation, a reality on which all else is predicated. We have to be practical, they say, and practicality dictates that to build anything that will last, one must build on solid ground. The wise build their houses on solid rock!

But no rock is solid. Looking within, even the most solid of rock is made up of smaller pieces, and those of bits smaller still, between which are vast swaths of nothingness. Emptiness, one might say, like the shell named earlier. Looking downward, the rock sits upon something else, which sits upon something else, which sits upon the flowing, molten core of the planet, which spins and turns in space. More emptiness.

A foundation cannot be an ultimate starting point upon which everything else is built, because what’s called a foundation is always atop something else. There is no ultimate base. Anything named as “the foundation” must have a foundation of its own. It’s simply turtles all the way down. The foundation is no foundation at all. It may be a link or an interface, but any solid rock is ultimately sand and empty space.

Instead of a foundation, my “belief system” has a series of relationships. I do not base my faith on the resurrection, nor on the Exodus, nor on church tradition, nor on any of the solas. Instead I relate to each of them, and they to each other. In this way I relate to the Trinity. As with any relationship, it is ever changing. The faith of no foundation is not a once and for all declaring, but a living, with all its uncertainty. It is a trust in relationship, be it the relationship between beliefs, doctrines, history, experience, tradition, etc. or the relationship between people. No one is greater than the other. They hold each other together, constantly looking to one another for strength.

To flip a hymn on its head:

On Christ’s wind-blown dunes I stand,
All that looks like rock is surely sand.

The foundation is no foundation. It’s something much stronger than that.

Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism

Jesus in his solidarity with the marginal ones is moved to compassion. Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness. In the arrangement of “lawfulness” in Jesus’ time, as in the ancient empire of Pharaoh, the one unpermitted quality of relation was compassion. Empires are never built or maintained on the basis of compassion. The norms of law (social control) are never accommodated to persons, but persons are accommodated to the norms. Otherwise the norms will collapse and with them the whole power arrangement. Thus the compassion of Jesus is to be understood not simply as a personal emotional reaction but as a public criticism in which he dares to act upon his concern against the entire numbness of his social context. Empires live by numbness. Empires, in their militarism, expect numbness about the human cost of war. Corporate economies expect blindness to the cost in terms of poverty and exploitation. Governments and societies of domination go to great lengths to keep the numbness intact. Jesus penetrates the numbness by his compassion and with his compassion takes the first step by making visible the odd abnormality that had become business as usual. Thus compassion that might be seen simply as generous goodwill is in fact criticism of the system, forces, and ideologies that produce the hurt.

~ Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination pp. 88-89

Resurrection

I must quote liberally from Anarchist Reverend here. Despite the changes we’ve been through being different in content, his words could be mine, almost down to the timeline.

And now it’s been 4 ½ years. My life is unrecognizable now from what it was then. I have entered into a future that I couldn’t even have dreamt of.

It is so, so beautiful.

I have dealt with the pain of my divorce but recovered a self-confidence that I didn’t know was possible. I have faced down my fears and come out so much stronger… I have the (complicated) love of my family.

I move through the world in a body that feels like home for the first time.

This is what resurrection feels like: The terror of night that gives way to the joy of the morning. Faded scars and so much joy. New life and new love. Peace. Overall, so much peace.

Thanks be to God.