On Being a Minister this Week
Civility

I Know What To Do

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I know what to do.  For all the people sharing what we need to do in the wake of the election, I know what to do, that was never in doubt.  I know it, because I've done it before.  

I lived as a very public gay man in the State of Oklahoma during a time when a state legislator said we were worse than terrorists and the Aryan Brotherhood murdered a gay man in a horrific hate crime.  I lived in a climate intended to terrorize me into silence and submission and I refused to be cowed.  And I had to interact with that legislator more than once, and always did so with kindness and grace.  In my public roles I encouraged people to not speak about her and others like her in the ways that they spoke about us. I encouraged the building of the beloved community, as Dr. King spoke about it.  

In that climate of intended terror I rarely was afraid.  I scoffed at the death threats I received, holding them as badges of honor.  When I was mistreated on the floor of the state House of Representatives, I thought it was silly.  When Westboro Baptist Church came to town to protest me, I felt I'd arrived as an activist and chose to celebrate that day.  When Michael and I were denounced in the state Republican Party platform (and I don't mean in some general sense, I mean specifically the two of us), we laughed and shared the news with our friends.  

And we got married in a public park so all the world could see.

Every day I lived with hope, courage, and integrity, refusing to let others define me or rob me of my power and my voice.  I insisted upon my right to be equal and free and worked tirelessly on behalf of my community, in the face of overwhelming opposition and a climate of terror and violence.  

And we won.  Not every battle, there was still work to be done, but the most difficult task of winning the hearts and minds of the American public, the mainstream culture, we won.  And we were winning more in the political arena and the courts.  In 2012 in Omaha, after a lot of really hard work, we passed an equal rights ordinance, and, then, fought multiple times, often behind the scenes, in the years since to secure that victory from attempts to overturn it.  We won handily every time.  

Along the way things changed.  I hadn't quite realized it till this week, but when I held Michael's hand I had quit looking around first to see if it was safe.  I don't know when I quit doing that.  I'd never thought about it.  But gone was the need every day to be courageous.  I felt most of the difficult work was in the past and that I could begin to focus my energy on other justice concerns.  Finally I was living as a free person.

In fact, I was living as a triumphant person.  I had achieved the goals I set for myself at 29.  I had come out and remained in both ministry and the conservative heartland.  I fell in love and got married.  God had blessed us with a son.  And I had played my part in securing my civil rights and equal treatment under the law.  I was living a victorious life.

So, I know what to do, because I've done it already.  I'm angry that I have to do it again.

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Paul T

Thank you!

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