Friday, July 08, 2011

okay to be gay/ thunder

Today at the AWAB member's meeting, we had a couple of young women join us, high-school-age participants in the youth programming at the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America summer conference. At one point, we broke into small groups by denomination: Alliance of Baptists, American Baptists, and so forth. The youth didn't have any particular denominational affiliation, so my friend Francis and I sat and talked with them. They talked about how many young lgbtq youth in their schools and neighborhoods face bullying and violence, about how some of their lgbtq friends were afraid to even leave the house because of threats of violence. And the church is seen, in their world, as complicit in all of this, if not supportive of it. On the one hand, it was pretty heart-breaking to hear all of this, and on the other hand it was so exciting to hear these two young people talk about their energy and passion to change things. We began to talk about what they wanted to do, about ways we could work together, about a vision of sharing a map, proclaiming a web of places that would welcome queer youth. They told us that they didn't know their were groups like AWAB before this week, didn't know there were churches that would welcome all young people. The two young women told the gathered group that, where they're from “Everybody knows that God hates gays.”
Well, they kept strategizing. By the end of the meeting, they asked if they could tell their friends, their fellow students, that people of God loved them no matter their sexuality. The gathered AWAB membership immediately voted to authorize the students to speak with our blessing, and to instruct the board to create a way to officially support their efforts.
At the end of the meeting, I left excited to hear more about their efforts. I expected to hear from them sometime in the next few days or weeks.
An hour later, their new facebook group “It's okay to be gay” had over a hundred members. They and some other peace camp youth posted this message and messages about the love of God to all their friends. One of their friends in Atlanta printed out a bunch of posters with the name of the group, and posted them in her neighborhood. She was afraid that this might provoke violence, so she got her father to go with her as a “dad bodyguard.”
I don't know what will happen next. There's a boatload of Baptists excited about supporting these efforts. But it it is so amazing to have this chance to facilitate a small connection between a group of adult welcoming church leaders and a new generation of young people, facing a new wave of homophobia and violence.
Here's what it makes me think of: on the first night of peace camp, I gathered with some of the other young adults here. At the end of our little shindig, we went around and said something we were hoping for out of this week. People said, “rest.” People said “friendship” and “empowerment” and “hope.”
I said, “thunder.”

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