Thursday, November 08, 2018

It's All About I . . .

I recently wrote a post on Facebook. It was inspired by my exasperation with liberals, a group within which I claim a home (though not always a comfortable seat in said home). It went like this:

Image result for liberal vs conservative
Dear, Liberals. A question or two for reflection...or internal reckoning: 
What are the problematic issues that plague liberals, and in what ways do those issues contribute to the struggles we currently have in (American) society?

I was curious to know what my liberal circle saw as the greatest problems within our own little tribe. In all honesty though, I was more curious to find out how many of my friends would point out other people in the liberal tribe that I also saw as problematic. To be sure, a good deal of this occurred, for better or for worse.

But an unexpected thing happened as I read through the responses. There were, as might be expected, quite a range of issues illuminated. Many of the arguments ultimately boiled down to "those liberals over there aren't quite liberal enough." Another set of answers boiled down to "those liberals over there are too blind to the obvious realities." Yet another set of responses boiled down to "those liberals over there aren't very kind." Perhaps you can see the trend here: many of the responses were about what other people were doing wrong. Grant you, I agreed with the grand majority of what was posted... I could see all the ways that those liberals over there were doing a whole host of things wrong.

But there were a few exceptional responses that began from a rather different stance: "I've done a lot of this wrong, and I see that as a problem for our side." It really took me aback. I was most affected by those people who started from such a place of humility. I began to realize that I, too, had done those very things, and therefore *I* was part of the many problems that plague society. I began to look at some of the other responses in a slightly different light as a result, recognizing that "what those liberals over there" were doing were also things that *I* was doing in some way.

I have been elitist. I have lorded my education over people, and tried to make others feel dumb. I have diminished, belittled, and dismissed the needs of a vast number of people in this country because I deemed them backward. In other words, I "othered" them, and dehumanized them. I have not done the hard work of seeking out those different from me and truly listening to them.

I also do not know how to stop doing such things. But I certainly want to try.

I don't know how we as a nation can even begin to overcome the disturbing, downward, tribal nosedive we currently find ourselves on. But if there's to be any hope of rescuing ourselves from freefall, it will have to start with the humility of I: What am *I* doing wrong? How am *I* contributing to this mess? It cannot start from what those people over there are doing.

Starting from I accomplishes a couple of things, I think. First, a humble start places me on the same level of those I wish to (need to) engage. You can't resist me as a superior elitist if I've taken myself down a peg. We will discuss--passionately, strenuously--our differences as equals. Second, you can't resist me when I'm saying I'm wrong. We will discuss--openly and vulnerably--as humans who are imperfect, but trying.

So to my conservative friends, family, and fellow Americans, I apologize.

I apologize for taking on a superior attitude. For assuming my beliefs are better than yours without listening intently to truly understand where you're coming from. For assuming the worst about your intentions without giving you the benefit of the doubt. For tuning you out because you upset me. I'm sure this list will grow as I continue to take a hard look at myself . . .
If I'm being honest, I don't feel very comfortable starting from this place. There are myriad fibers of my being protesting all the ways you've done similar things to me, and how it's unfair that as someone who identifies with a number of marginalized groups, I should have to go first and apologize. This. Feels. Too. Vulnerable.

Image result for vulnerable

If I'm being honest, I don't trust that you will reciprocate, and fear that you will take advantage of a man who has his hands up in good faith, on a hope and a prayer. (And unless you know the experience intimately, it may be very hard for you to understand how truly horrifying it is for a Black man to choose to take an unpleasant stance that too many of us are forced to take against our wills.)

But I also realize that if we're all stubbornly holding fast to our opposing poles, trying to live up to the dictates of our tribes, that the end will be sure, and the cost will be high. I know, as a psychologist, and an armchair observer of human behavior, that someone's got to take the first step, or our gangs will destroy one another (if we don't destroy ourselves first).

Image result for honey and breadI extend an invitation to come and eat with me. I can't promise it will always be pleasant, and I can't promise that I won't make a faux pas or two along the way. This little Black fly/fruit(y) fly isn't used to eating with a whole lot of other flies :) But if we can manage to tame our beasts, and we can alert each other when we revert back to our own worst instincts, I think we can make some headway and turn this ship from that looming iceberg.

I am aware that there are a whole lot of flies out there who don't give a shit about the honey I just put out on the table. Yet I also know that there are probably a good many flies out there who look an awful lot like the flies who hate honey, but only because no one has ever offered them honey before.

So if someone's got to do it, then why not me?

Why not start with "I . . ."?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

An Honest Journey Continued: Reflections on the Next Stage

Five years ago, I upended my life, and my family's, by embarking on a new adventure.

As a Black kid growing up just outside the nation's capital, I was barely conscious of how incredibly blessed I was. I had two parents, a small but comfortable home, we always had food on the table, at least one car in the driveway, and I went to private (Christian and church-run) schools. By most measures, I had a wholesome, privileged upbringing, particularly in a nation that has systematically made it difficult for Black families to attain such a feat.

I was also pretty bright. College education was a given for me. It was my goal in life to get a higher degree, inspired by several brilliant Black scholars, scientists, and teachers I was surrounded by in the Black megachurch in which I grew up. I was good at science, so I figured I might as well get a PhD in genetics. Except that in my sophomore year of college, after working in a biochemistry lab, I realized how boring bench work was for me. (Not to knock those who are absolutely giddy about lab work...more power to you. It just wasn't my thing.) So then I thought, "Med school!" That was pretty much the only other option available to biochemistry-majoring-higher-degree-pursuing folks. After about a semester on that track, I remembered why I didn't lead with that step in the first place: I hate blood! Way too squeamish for that. So when pharmacy school fell on my lap, I thought it was perfect. It was a higher degree that married science and helping people, but not at the expense of making me puke. So I did that. And it wasn't too long before I realized that it too failed to maintain my interest. Thousands of dollars into pharmacy school debt, and 7 years into a successful clinical psychopharmacologist career, I changed course, deciding--for the first time in my life--to pursue something because I felt passionate about it, not because doors conveniently opened for me and I just walked through them by default.

I have zero regrets about moving to Massachusetts, starting a social justice-oriented program at UMass Boston, and immersing myself in the field of psychology, with an emphasis on LGBTQ sectionality. My husband may feel differently about it, and my child may at some point too...the therapy bills will tell the tale. For me though, it has been extremely tough, but so fulfilling.

But here I am, 5/6 of an internship and 10 months away from getting my PhD. Since my clinical practice these past 4 years has been in college counseling, it's only seemed natural to me to continue in that vein. Psychotherapy is one of the things I'm really passionate about, and it's what inspired me to change careers in the first place. Moreover, college undergrad/grad students are so wonderful to work with: They're young enough to have real problems, but not old enough to be jaded about them. It's fascinating and rewarding work.

And yet, there's been a creeping question in the back of my mind these past 4 years--a question that as of 6 hours ago came rushing forth: Is college counseling really what I want to be doing...or am I just walking through convenient doors open in front of me again?

I honestly don't know the answer to that. In many ways, I think I could be really happy with the 9-5 predictable work of college counseling. But in other ways, I wonder if it won't start feeling like psychiatric pharmacy did at some point... like boring symptom management (in large part due to the changes in college counseling that have occurred in the past decade where much of the job is geared toward routine anxiety/depression complaints, rather than the deep soul work that I find most meaningful and engaging about psychotherapy).

I want to be open to the novel opportunities that this degree could provide me. And when I really take stock of what I love the most about therapy, it's working with LGBTQ people who have identity conflict (be that with their religion, with their race/ethnicity, etc.) There's a reason after all that this is what I chose to study and make the subject of my dissertation. It's what drives me. So why would I choose a career that doesn't let me do a whole lot of that (a little, for sure, but not a lot)?

I can't help but feel like I may be destined for something more than college counseling. Not necessarily something "greater," but perhaps something more fulfilling, more... "me."But when I think about what that might be, I come up well short of an answer. Should I be in academia studying this? Should I start a private practice specifically for LGBTQ people, with an eye toward identity conflict? Should I pursue a more political end? Should I seek out a think tank of some sort? Non-profit work?

None of the flashes of ideas seems quite right. I get no sense that I'm "meant" to pursue any of them. Which leaves me feeling just a bit bewildered.

If I were to take a leap into the unknown, rather than the comfort of the sure path of college counseling, I don't feel as if I have a good idea about what the unmet needs are in the LGBTQ community, nor how I might go about responding to them in a way that felt very "me."

So I've decided not to own all of this. I'm throwing it back at you all... friends, family, acquaintances, total strangers. What systemic work needs to be accomplished within the LGBTQ community? If you had a chance to do any of that work, what would it be? All answers are welcomed and encouraged, recognizing of course that it's quite possible none of them will be right for me. But I'm surveying the field nonetheless.


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Calling on The Willing: Ending Hate by Starting with Me

After so many tragedies in such a short time (in no particular order: more innocent black men killed by police, airport bombing in Instanbul, Dallas police officer shootings, LGBTQ people of color murdered in the safe haven of a gay club, celebration turned nightmare in Nice, Dhaka bakery attacks), I have spent a lot of time wallowing in resignation, fighting numbness, and contemplating a foray into
politics. I've also spent a good deal of time on social media: reading, commenting, and fighting...a lot.

It occurred to me a few days ago to pump the brakes on my social media involvement surrounding these issues, because I noticed how it was only making me sadder, and madder, and more depressed, and - despite the universality promised by social media - was making me feel farther and farther apart from humanity: my own, and everyone else's.

As I watched YouTube video after video about these tragedies, and heard all of the yelling and screaming and on-air inability to maintain composure, I just hit a breaking point. I could only cry. It was watching a CNN panel on race relations that really got to me. Another white man telling black people how they ought to be feeling and responding to issues that have been affecting our community for years, but only recently has risen to the level of national scrutiny (to which I say "thank God" and "Oh dear Lord"). The first emotion I felt welling up inside of me was pure rage. But then, the rage subsided, and I could see the ocean that existed beyond the wave: an ocean of pain, sadness, hurt, and fear. I felt so hurt that this man could not just listen, could not even try to understand what it must feel like to be terrified of the police and to sit up late at night worrying that your children will never come home. I just wanted him to listen. Just listen, and try to understand.

Another panelist responded out of that first emotion I felt. She laid into him and didn't relent for the rest of the segment. Part of me felt so invigorated and vindicated. "Finally! Someone saying what I want them to say, defending my people, giving his ignorance what it deserves!"

But then I thought..."What exactly did that accomplish?" You know, really. What did that accomplish? There are only a few ways to respond to anger: it either raises your defenses to the point of you shutting down or getting angry yourself, you cower at the ferocity of your opponent's grand display, or you quietly acquiesce and move on. Surely this is not what we want to accomplish in our dialogue. Surely this is not productive, is it? Shutting down, amplifying anger, cowering, or resigned acquiescence?

There has to be a better way to approach these things.

When I was in college, as part of my RA training, I participated in a once-a-week series for 6 weeks called an Intergroup Dialogue. The particular dialogue I entered was on white and black relations. The idea was not to talk past each other, but to listen to each other. In a couple of the sessions, there was only one group talking while the other observed. I remember how weird it felt to talk to my fellow black students about white people while they were sitting there listening. I remember how difficult it felt to sit and listen to the white students talk about us without interjecting and correcting all of their ignorance. But it was a life-changing opportunity for me. Somehow along the way, I lost sight of many of the lessons I learned from that experience.

As I've reflected on the causes of recent tragedies, I keep coming back to hate. That's sort of a "no shit, Sherlock" conclusion. I fully know it. But as I've pondered what I could possibly do about all of this, the question becomes "What can I do about hate?" The above named tragedies had many common streams, like terrorism and violence. Underneath those lied so much bad history and oppression: racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and on and on. And underneath still stood issues like poverty, inequality, unchecked power, etc. You begin to wonder if there's any particular center to this Tootsie Pop.

Honestly, I'm not sure there is. I'm not sure there's any ONE thing that is the root cause of it all, such that if we just fixed that thing, then all of the other pieces would fall into place. But I do know that there is something that I can do about hate.

Hate starts with me. That has been the painful self-discovery of this week.

I hate.

I hate a lot of things and a lot of people. Sure, I'm not the type to snap and go kill the people that I hate. But that's not the point. The cliched point I'm trying to make is that if I want the hate to stop, one practical thing that I can do is to stop giving it safe haven in my own soul.

Here's how it works: little innocent hate makes you angry, and so you go making angry, blustering posts on Facebook. Well, that gets the folks who agree with you a chance to stand in accord, and go hating too, while the people you hate and those who agree with them write snide responses. And then you fight. Eventually, this happens enough that the people you hate no longer read your posts. Why would they? It feels bad, and nobody wants to feel bad. Slowly but surely, your friend list starts to look like a little choir, and you wake up one day and realize that all the comments are now comments of agreement: the hated are no longer reading along. They've retreated into their own little Facebook ghettos of like-minded allies. And the twain only meet when they come out a couple of times a week to duke it out. And inevitably, even this occurs only because your good friend from high school, or your cousin who lives on the other side of the country - both of whom you no longer have anything in common with - won't defriend you out of principle and loyalty, but your ignorant post happens to pop up on their feed and they can't resist the urge to enlighten you with their effective, angry (sometimes sarcastic) words.

But do we really think this is productive? This drives a wedge between people, and then cranks that wedge open wider and wider and wider until you honestly can't understand a single thing that anyone else says or does anymore, and those not in agreement with you seem like aliens from a distant planet. Or, they seem downright insane. And when I see The Other as insane, I can't humanize them. If they're not human, they're not worth listening to. If they're not worth listening to and all we can manage to do is throw Anger Poop at each other, then nothing gets accomplished on a societal level. Enter: Congress. But let's stop pretending that the problem is Congress. The problem is all of us. Congress is really just a microcosm of what we see happening on our Facebook pages day after day. So the solution cannot be to try electing more of the same, nor do I believe we will accomplish much by electing those who are seemingly outside the box (think Trump). Because the problem is not politicians. Politicians are us. The problem is us.

So here's something I think we can all do to quell some of the vitriol and unproductive "conversation" happening right now.

1.) Could you please join me in not writing about The Other in disparaging terms that explicitly or subtly indicate how unintelligent, insane, morally bankrupt, etc. they are?

I do this all the time. I see it all the time among my friends. Often it's tongue-in-cheek and quite funny, but it's actually harmful in the long run.

2.) Could we please commit to trying to listen to The Other and understand what their fear is, what their moral standing is, what they are trying to accomplish? 

This may actually mean getting off of Facebook (where it's too easy to lose people's nuance and intentions, especially when we're dive-bombing in comments sections) and going out to have coffee (or better yet, a beer!) with someone who disagrees with us.

3.) Can we commit to finding common ground with The Other and not leaving a conversation until we do?

You wouldn't be able to tell it by the state of our national dialogue, but we actually all agree on more than we disagree on. This is true of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, but it's also true of Bernie and Newt Gingrich, or Hillary and Paul Ryan. We all agree on the problems. Where we tend to disagree is on the approach to solving the problem, but we're so unable to have real conversations, that we can't even agree that we see the same problems anymore! This is insanity.

4.) Can we try to be vulnerable and not just speak from a place of anger, but to see if there's something deeper we are feeling, and speaking from that place instead (or in addition to that place of anger)?

That means talking from my truest emotions: not my reactionary anger, but my primary hurt, pain, and sadness. That one simple change in our dialogue I think could make monumental shifts in our attitudes towards one another, and our ability to build a just and peaceful society.

I believe this, because as a therapist, I encourage my clients to experiment with this way of communicating all the time, and they see drastic results in their relationships and their well-being. If any couple came into my office bickering the way that I routinely bicker with people on Facebook or YouTube comments sections, I would have a very serious talk about dishonest communication based on secondary emotions rather than true primary emotions. And yet, I can't seem to apply this to myself.

Please, I want to know your thoughts. I want to talk with you. I want us to come to the table wanting to find some agreement, and working out a way to move forward...together. I am calling on a Coalition of The Willing. And by this, I do not mean all of my Facebook ghetto friends who agree with me on everything I post. Yes, I hope you're a part of The Willing. But I also mean that I'm consciously deciding to do the tough work of listening and trying to understand the people I don't agree with. And if those who I disagree with are also part of The Willing, then I think we might actually get somewhere...somewhere good.

So I'm trying something. I'm trying what I challenge my clients to do all the time. I'm changing the way I talk. I'm trying to listen more. I'm trying to find some common ground, ANY common ground, and building on it until I'm stalled, and then going back later and trying to build there some more. I'm speaking from a place of true emotion, not just anger. (Notice I said not JUST anger, because anger can be a primary emotion, and it does indeed have a place at the table of healthy communication.) I'm trying on some vulnerability.

My faith calls me to engage The Other, hear The Other, and see The Other as The Us. I'm asking you to join me, no matter what group you're allied with, what walk of life you're on. Try with me, and let's see where we end up. It couldn't be much worse than where we're currently heading, right?

Saturday, December 12, 2015


Over the last few days, my emotions have been all over the place because of a certain presidential candidate - who shall remain nameless (**coughTRUMPcough**) - and some very caustic comments that have only incited more hatred and discrimination towards Muslims and Arabs. These events have sparked some really wonderful conversations with friends (those who agree with me, and those who don't), but have also been the catalyst for some very discouraging conversations as well.

After hearing heartrending stories on NPR about innocent people being publicly harrassed, intimidated, and even beaten, I got tired of spontaneous bursts of crying on my daily commutes. Yesterday morning, after one of these fits, as I cried out to God wondering what all of this was about, these words started coming to me. They were all about fear and the awful things fear makes us do. As soon as I got to work, I started tapping out those words on a keyboard. I honestly don't know where they came from...they just ushered forth...almost as if not from me at all. Almost as if I were a mere vehicle: Inspired. Thankfully, my first client of the morning canceled, so I had time to finish writing it all out. Here is the result:

I. Am afraid.
I am afraid to go to the movie theater. Out to dinner. To school. To work. Anywhere.
I am afraid when I see white vans parked by the side of the road.
Don’t you think I’m afraid?
I am afraid of being afraid.
I get a check in my gut when I see that beautiful brown skin, and quintessentially manly beard, especially when there’s no accompanying smile on that face.
I am afraid that this goes through my mind. I don’t want to be this way.
I am afraid that I am ignorant.
I am afraid for my friends: Muslims, and Arabs, and people that look like Arabs – beautiful people, all.
Some of them are even Christians. And Hindus. And Buddhists. And atheists. None of them are terrorists. But I am afraid that this means nothing to the man who is reactionary and afraid.
I am afraid that the Afraid People don’t even recognize how much their words and their actions come from a place of being afraid. I am afraid of what they will do.
I am afraid of how the sight of a hijab makes the Afraid People so afraid that all the hate they’ve kept hidden for so long in the secret parts of the heart will come roaring forth like a mighty river after a hurricane.
I am afraid that we will lose our humanity… in the name of combating people who have already lost theirs.
I am afraid that the Afraid People will win – that they will become the majority because they stir up everyone else who is afraid.
Yes, I am afraid that the Afraid People have made me more afraid. I am afraid of how that will affect me.
I am afraid that Love has its limits, and that we are inching ever closer to its bounds.
I am afraid that even if the Humanityless People lose, it will be too late, because the Afraid People will become the new Humanityless People. We all lose.
I am afraid that we are unable to talk anymore. To tell our afraidness to quiet down, so that we can hear: Peace, Love, Joy, Others.
I know that you are afraid too, aren’t you?
Maybe that means something? Maybe we’re not all so different after all? Maybe we don’t have to keep being so afraid and we can be something else? Something more: evolved, grounded, brave, hopeful, REAL.
But I’m afraid you don’t care to join me here…in being honest about all this afraidness. That you want to be part of the Afraid People. That you already are the Afraid People.
~D.J. Freeman-Coppadge

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Culture War Legacies: Ducks, Dynasties, and Denigration

PHOTO: This photo taken May 15, 2013 shows Phil Robertson posing for a photograph at his home in western Ouachita Parish, La.By now, I'm sure you've heard of the Phil Robertson (of Duck Dynasty fame) flap regarding his sentiments about gay people. If you're gay, you've likely heard it from Left-leaning media. If you're Christian, you've probably heard it from Right-leaning media, from Christian friends, or - coming to a Sunday near you - from the pulpit. If you're a gay Christian like me, you've probably been "lucky" enough to hear it from all over the place.**

Regardless where you've gotten the news, it seems to be almost impossible to resist making a comment about the whole debacle. Try as I might to live above the fray, I found myself dragged into the debate as well, and here I am making a whole post about it!

Except, I don't think the issue is all that important in and of itself. Is what he said offensive to gay people (and Black people too for that matter, which is getting surprisingly less press coverage)? Sure. Any more offensive than what is stated by millions of Americans every day? Not really. Is it worth debating? Sure. But should he lose his job for it (i.e., should A&E kick him and his show to the curb)? That's the key question for me. No, I don't mean "does A&E have the right to fire him?" That's silly. Of course they do! They're a private enterprise, and have the right to make whatever hiring and firing decisions they please with their employees. (That's actually a very conservative principle, so I'm a bit baffled why so many conservatives are so put-off by his suspension. But I digress...)

What I'm really getting at here, though, are the implications for this type of continued behavior. Martin Bashir makes offensive statements about Sarah Palin. Conservative pundits (including Palin herself) are shocked and appalled. They call for MSNBC to take action. Bashir leaves the network (leaving most of us to speculate that he probably didn't have much choice in the matter). But the examples are plenteous.  A Rightie says something stupid, the Lefties call for them to be punished in some nebulous way. A Leftie says something stupid, the Righties cry "Crucify him!" And back and forth it goes.

I would like to suggest something here. Could we perhaps call a truce? Can we end the Culture Wars? Because it has all devolved into a national gang/mafia mentality: You shoot my guy, so me and my boys go kill all of yours. And on and on it goes. Nobody wins. Everyone loses.

Many conservative Christians are starting to see the writing on the wall here. Cases like Phil Robertson's make them zealous. They wonder aloud "if this is what happens when someone stands for Biblical truth, it's just a matter of time before they'll throw us in jail just for being Christian!" They are angry, they are indignant, they are afraid, and so far it seems the overwhelming response is to dig their heels in further and take up the Culture War battle cry.

In all honesty, I think they're largely correct. The cultural tide has changed dramatically on gay issues, and saying anything that remotely equates homosexuality with sin is labeled bigotry, hateful, and homophobic. We can debate all day and night about whether that's fair or not, or about the merits and morality of gay love. But that's just more of the same. What I think is far more important to highlight with conservative Christians is this:

What exactly did you expect would happen when you proudly entered the Culture War, army in tow? In a case of mass narcissism, this entire tide change is interpreted as being "just what Jesus said would happen: we'll be reviled and rejected for His sake." Martyrdom syndrome.

I would like to offer an alternative hypothesis: perhaps you are now the victims of your own war-obsessed lifestyle. I think the more appropriate Scripture to describe the phenomenon is Matthew 26:52: "...for all who draw the sword will die by the sword."

Not long ago, those with minority religious views were oppressed and marginalized. It's part of the reason this nation was founded. Protecting religion is, for better or worse, part of the marrow of these United States. But there's this strange thing that happens when oppressed groups come to power: they have a proclivity to become oppressors.

To wit: Where were you, O Christian, when your gay classmates were bullied in school? Did you use the Word of God to chastise the perpetrators? Where were you, O Christian, when Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered in large part because of his sexuality? Did you hold press conferences to denounce this sort of hatred? Where were you, O Christian, when it became abundantly clear that the Anoka-Hennepin school district in Minnesota was a hotbed of gay teen suicides? Did you protest the school district until they did something about this injustice? Where were you, O Christian, when Jamey Rodemeyer committed suicide? Did you convene a Million Christian March for the lives of the thousands of young, helpless, tortured souls just like his?

Perhaps you were there and supportive, but only a minority of you were (outside the Progressive wing of Christendom anyway). Because my Facebook News Feed hasn't blown up with your support during any such similar events. But when Robertson opens his mouth and lets all sorts of jackassery fall out, you are quite vocal indeed. Do you really think the message the Church is passing along to gay people is truly one of love?

The problem here is that for too long, Christians have been on the same side as the general culture which proscribed homosexuality. As society oppressed LGBT individuals, Christians were more than happy to oblige, in many instances leading the charge. But now an increasing number of people are beginning to grant LGBT people the dignity that they deserve. And in no small part, this is actually the fault of Christians themselves. People young and old began to consider the hypocrisy concerning "God's people of love" and their treatment of LGBT people.  You are complicit in the disillusionment of the masses.

But now the sands are shifting. Did you really expect the LGBT community to simply forget your hateful words, your blind eyes, your mute mouths, your taunts, your torture, and your condemnation? Did you think they would simply say "Oh well, that was in the past, water under the bridge, let's be friends now!" especially when so many of your leaders continue to deny them fundamental rights and protections? Is it really surprising to you the vehemence with which many in the LGBT community go after you when you publicly declare (your version of) Biblical truth? These are the wages of warmongering, my friends, and not the "reviling" for Christ's sake that you may suppose that it is. (If you want to understand being reviled for Christ's sake, try speaking a message of love and acceptance of God's gay children without qualifications or caveats to a conservative Christian audience.)

If you don't want your doomsday scenario (being tossed in jail for having a negative opinion about homosexuality) to come to fruition, maybe consider raising the Peace Flag. Not letting go of your convictions, but simply letting go of the need to go to war over them.

I do not mean to insinuate that you do this simply because you're currently losing this war. I urge you to do so because it is right. I urge you to do so because turning weapons into ploughshares was always God's vision for humanity, and you are his hands and feet here to accomplish it. You have given the LGBT community no reason whatsoever to be kind to you, to tolerate you and your views, or to see what great "love" you have for them. Christ has given you every reason to walk justly, humbly, and peacefully with all men. You have given the LGBT community no reason to quit fighting. Christ has given you every reason to recognize that "eye for an eye" is outdated, ineffective, and off the mark. Now is the time to cease fighting a community, and fight instead the principalities and powers of injustice and mean-spiritedness.

I know what you're thinking: "BUT GAY IS SIN! It's SIN, goshdarnit! What if being nice to The Gays and no longer fighting them makes them think they're not hell-bound?!"  Honestly, I think you're jumping the gun here. I have no great expectation that you're going to just spontaneously see (or be coerced into believing) that gay love is good love. You may keep your "sin" label if you please. But try building some bridges while you do it. Try really understanding and walking in the shoes of the people you are sure are sinning. Try to find ways to fight for them (simple things like taking bullying of gay teens seriously as evinced by social action, or holding vigils for gay people who commit suicide) and see how that changes the landscape of America. You might be quite surprised by the results. And if you've got a great imagination, consider what the sociopolitical atmosphere would be like right now had this been the Christian response all along.

Finally, to the LGBT community, I want to offer a reminder. I reiterate that when oppressed groups gain power, they are in danger of becoming oppressors themselves. Consider this the next time a conservative Christian minimizes your experiences and expresses his displeasure with your "lifestyle." Consider this the next time a Christian decides not to bake a cake for your gay wedding. Put yourself in their shoes. What might you feel like if everything you believed and held dear, everything that made your world feel ordered and safe, came crashing down before your eyes. You think their refusal is because they hate you? Perhaps in some cases, but not likely in most. Their refusal has more to do with their cosmology and sense of well-being than your sexuality. It just so happens that your sexuality causes a very uncomfortable wrestling with sacred words and beliefs. I understand that to you this is about civil rights and good ethics, and no one should get a free pass on civil rights. Again, I am no more suggesting that you forego your moral convictions than the conservative Christian should. I'm simply suggesting that in the process, you try to imagine the lived experience of being a faithful follower of Christ's with a particular (often literal) interpretation of Biblical living. Just walk in their shoes for a bit. How do you think this all feels? I think some tough dialogue about the contrasting world views would be far more beneficial to all than a long drawn out legal battle over some damn cake! Yes, yes, "it's the principle of the thing". I get it. I really do. But consider how your principle applied feels to others who are different from you. It may not change your conclusion, but it might compel you to modify your approach, and that can make all the difference in the world.

Above all, remember that it is the nature of power to ebb and flow. LGBT people may be gaining more social influence and respect (as I think it ought to be), but it may not always be the case. Consider how you might want your enemies to treat you should you suddenly find that all the gains are losses anew.

**Disclaimer: I recognize that much of this essay dichotomizes Christians and the LGBT community, when in fact there is overlap between the two. I also recognize that there are many, many Christians out there who are strong champions for LGBT people. Further, I recognize that I make sweeping assumptions and stereotypes throughout. Forgive me for the caricatures. It is merely a response to the polarization I've witnessed on my Facebook News Feed over the past few days because of the "Duck Dynasty Debacle." And sometimes, not qualifying every statement one makes can be beneficially provocative. I'm hoping this is one of those times...