Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Via Faith In America

Dear Faith In America Supporters,


Let me first state clearly that I believe so strongly that we must either change anti-LGBT religicals or we must marginalize their role in society.  It’s not an either or, but both. 

As we end the year with the holiday season, please consider making Faith in America an important part of your giving.  As you consider what organizations you will support in 2017, please think about reassessing who recognizes the real work that needs to be done now with such powerful forces of anti-LGBT religious voices against equal legal and spiritual rights.  I would contend we are doing the work that needs to be done.  Our goal is to educate those that are in conflict and willing to learn, and to marginalize the role of those that are not.
Here’s why
As we all emerge from the fog of the election results, many of us are left wondering how we move forward onto this horizon that seemingly portends such danger to the gains we as a country have made in recent years.  At this time, Faith in America feels it is important to identify the threats to continued justice for the LGBT community…and so many other vulnerable groups….. as put forth by the new administration, to place in perspective how viable these threats are and to offer solid solutions about how those of us who value justice can leverage this setback to justice as an impetus for greater change.  The very real silver lining is that sometimes it takes a kick in the butt like this to wake more people up to do more….to ultimately gain more. I believe WE can.

The choice of Mike Pence as running mate was the first indication that Donald Trump had a ‘faith strategy’….a strategy to woo evangelical voters.  Many looked at Trump’s pandering to the likes of Franklin Graham, James Dobson or Jerry Falwell, Jr. as disingenuous or cynical, but the reality is, he was smart to do it and it was clearly a factor in his winning.  On the other hand, Hillary Clinton did not have an effective faith strategy and definitely did not come up with an effective and innovative way to convince this important voting block that in fact her past performance proves that she was the candidate with strong moral values.  When I think about ‘what is a good Christian?’…Hillary is definitely it.  Mike Pence is the worst of the worst kind of person masking his outdated, ill-informed religious bigotry as his being a ‘Christian.’  Mr. Pence, I’ve met good Christians and you’re not one of them!

Trump not only courted voter’s hostile to the LGBT community while occasionally saying something more moderate, but now looks like he will potentially seek to pursue policies the Vice President elect in fact championed as governor in his home state. 

More concretely, this new administration has committed to nullifying executive orders of the Obama administration, inclusive likely of the protections offered to LGBT professionals employed by federal contractors.  Besides the real-life impact, it has a strong symbolic message: the government will not protect those that are discriminated against.

Most disturbingly, is this administration’s professed commitment to the furtherance of LBGT discrimination through the guise of emphasizing “state’s rights” and “religious freedom” – two ruses presently employed at the state level to deny equal rights to LGBT individuals.  Principally, it is the administration’s intent to further this agenda through the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice in the tradition of Scalia.  Regardless of what he says that he believes marriage equality is settled law, if Trump appoints a Scalia type to the bench, all bets are off.

Finally, through new appointments to the Department of Health and Human Services, any efforts thus far to identify and ameliorate the public health crisis that is attendant to the LGBT community by virtue of its minority status will likely be curbed.  And by virtue of the extremely harmful teachings that vulnerable kids grow up with.

Taken as a whole, the foregoing can seem overwhelming and insurmountable.  With this said, it is important to pause and determine how likely and immediate each of these threats are. 

Sadly, there can be anticipated a broad milieu that will seek to frame the conversation of LGBT rights in hostile terms.  Knowing the president elect’s experience, he will likely delegate much responsibility to vice president Pence and in so doing it can be expected Pence will seek to further his extreme views wherever possible…and clearly, his views are based on his religious teachings.  It is reasonable therefore to anticipate that federal protections through Obama’s executive order will be the first assault.

Now that the Executive and Legislative branches are controlled by the GOP, it can be expected that legislation will be crafted that will further their aforementioned causes of states’ rights and religious freedom.  It is hoped that Democrats’ filibuster maneuvers would be employed in defense of the LGBT community.  Whatever pieces of legislation which are successfully passed, however, ultimately must be Constitutional.  Therefore, the appointment of a Scalia judge it is feared will potentially allow for the Constitution to be re-shaped. 

It is important to note that in the era of Scalia, great gains were made for LGBT rights.  A new Scalia judge will sadly not move the court in the progressive direction we had all hoped, however, it will not fundamentally alter the composition of a court which struck down DOMA and made marriage equality the rule of the land. 
Lastly, any overtures regarding Constitutional Amendments must be tempered with the knowledge that such proposed Amendments will never ultimately clear the extremely high bar set to affect such change.  There simply is not sufficient support to cause such mechanization's to turn. 

If this administration can be held to one term, we are hopeful that lasting, destructive change can be averted.  HOWEVER, THIS PROFOUND IF IS IN THE HANDS OF US WHO ARE COMMITTED TO HOLDING THIS ADMINISTRATION ACCOUNTABLE.

So where does this leave us?
Aaron Sorkin penned a beautiful letter to his wife and daughter this week, grieving this nation’s present malady, but more importantly reminding his loved ones of the great responsibility his household now bears to arise to a momentous occasion.  The time for tweets and News Feed posts is more important than ever.  You can be a huge asset in educating, in moving our messages more viral to a much wider audience.  Will you commit 15 minutes a day to watch our social media, like, comment and share?  Now we must pick up peaceful arms, roll up our sleeves and place all hands-on deck.  Will you help us hold fund raisers? Support our fundraising efforts by sharing with friends and family?  By March 1, 2017 we need to raise $ 2 million so we can quickly enhance the implementation of our efforts.

We are moving across a horizon now where the hostilities of a minority yet influential group of sadly uneducated are in plain view. They are uneducated about who LGBT people are, their accomplishments and goodness in life, and the extreme suffering too many have been subject to.  They have been misled by their religious leaders. They interpret Scripture in an outdated and misguided way.  I’ve met too many parents who tell me they actually never really read “the clobber verses” until their child came out….and once they did, they realized they were wrong or not really applicable to their loving child.   Faith in America would like to encourage all of you to see the opportunity this presents for those who embrace love and justice for ALL.  The curtain has been pulled back and the prejudicial motivations of those who ushered in this administration are in plain view.  We must now offer remedy in the form of knowledge alternatives….be they medical or theological…. and we must seek out our political and allies as stakeholders to champion our causes.  Now is the time to choose and rally around our fair minded and compassionate leaders.

More specifically, for those of you who have graciously supported the cause of Faith in America – now more than ever we need all of your help to protect what progress has been made and continue to raise awareness about the LGBT public health crisis.  Hundreds of thousands are tormented with mental illness, homelessness, and, one to two thousand take their lives each year.  Consistent with FIA’s stated goal of ending religious based teachings, which underlies this epidemic, we are launching two ground breaking, game changing initiatives:
  1.  Medical Advisory
We are assembling concrete data led by prominent psychiatrists, physiologists and pediatricians to educate anti-LGBT people….from religious leaders to parents and all….about the very real and dangerous harm anti-LGBT religious teachings have on LGBT people’s mental health, especially youth.  Distilling it down to the basic root cause of the vast majority of anti-LGBT behaviors, we must give more than a theological reason to stop the toxic teaching that “homosexuality is a sin.”  More on this to follow in the months to come.
  1. Campus accreditation's
Hundreds of campuses across this country employ LGBT discriminatory language in their school’s bi-laws.  At the time when youth’s principal lifespan task is to form deep, intimate relationships – our LGBT students are precluded from achieving this monumental lifespan task.  Is it any wonder why there are such disproportionately high rates of suicide among college aged LGBT students?
Faith in America has conceived what it believes to be a game changer to end these teachings on college campuses.  Leveraging the legal expertise of board members Roberta Kaplan, Howard Vine, and Shannon Minter, along with legal counsel Phil Wells, FIA will be executing a comprehensive strategy to end these teachings on campuses across the nation. 

These campaigns are called END THE HARM.

We need your help to do this.  Please give of your time and money.  We have run our organization mostly through volunteer efforts. Now we must have professional full time help to mount the kind of effort we are compelled to accomplish. END THE HARM now requires countless people hours to do pain staking research and data base population, as well as meeting convening’s. We need your help on social media. Additionally, this will be enhanced and significantly benefit from dedicated public relations and media staff to elevate the cause, and make it part of the mainstream conversation. We are assembling the team now. Your generous donations will have a profound, measurable impact on the lives of LGBT youth everywhere.

United, together we will successfully combat forces of fear and lack of knowledge, of animus which has been unleashed before our eyes.  Your partnership now can be the force for good that triumphs over evil and fear. I know from personal experience that Faith In America's work provides hope to our youth and gives them promise for a new horizon filled with love and justice and.... a“whole” life.

I want to share something that happened to me on Election Day.  One of our long-term employees came to see me. With tears in their eyes, told me about how their 20 something child came out over the weekend.  For generations, this family has attended and still does, what has become one of the most virulently anti-LGBT churches in our rural area. But when their childcame out, as they told me, they knew that everything I had been saying in Faith in America's messaging had been "right." Their 3 year younger child read our website and saw a speech I gave and told his parent that “Mitchell was right."  Before leaving we stood up and hugged, and this person told me they loved me.  It was quite emotional and I must admit, nourishing…..makes my commitment to this work worthwhile. I instinctively asked if they felt their child was a sinner. Looking in my eyes, the verdict: no. This is our work. To make a world where children are not just accepted, but embraced. If need be, one at a time. With your increased support, we can reach much larger numbers.

I’ll end as I started: As we end the year with the holiday season, please consider making Faith in America an important part of your giving.  As you consider what organizations you will support in 2017, please think about reassessing who recognizes the real work that needs to be done now with such powerful force of anti-LGBT religious voices against equal legal and spiritual rights.  I would contend we are doing the work that needs to be done.  Our goal is to educate those that are in conflict and willing to learn, and to marginalize the role of those that are not.

Mitchell Gold
Co-Founder, Faith in America                                                                     

Support our work? Make a tax-deductible contribution to Faith In America today. 

Via Ram Dass


You know what happens when things get like they’re getting, when it’s becoming increasingly destabilized?

In the late 60’s we had the Vietnam and Anti-Vietnam forces in this culture that were destabilizing. What happens in the presence of that destabilization, where there is human unconsciousness is that people get frightened, and when they get frightened, they use certain mechanisms; they go into denial, they become more fundamentalist; they try to find values they can hold onto, to ward off evil. They cling and become more ultra-nationalist. There’s more ethnic prejudice, there’s more racial prejudice and anti-semitism. It all increases, because this fear isn’t just in us, this is a worldwide thing.

These changes are happening very rapidly, and they are destabilizing changes. People respond with fear, and the question we must ask ourselves today is, “Is there any place you can stand inside yourself where you don’t freak out, where you can be quiet enough to hear the predicament and find a way to act in a way that is at least not contributing to the further destabilization?”

That’s a fair request.

Via Sri Prem Baba

Via Daily Dharma / November 23, 2016: How Gratitude Leads to Generosity

Gratitude, the simple and profound feeling of being thankful, is the foundation of all generosity.

—Sallie Tisdale, "As If There is Nothing to Lose"