By Theresa D. McClellan
GIFT’s Faith Advocacy Coordinator
“Gay Christian? Yes!” Campaign Coordinator
These are the only words to describe the actions and non-action at the Gay Day celebration in a Grand Rapids neighborhood park where Bible-toting characters spewed hate and violence toward women and anyone within earshot.
On Saturday Aug. 4 the East Hills Neighborhood Association organized “Gay Day,” as a day to recognize and celebrate diversity, the current and historical presence of gays in their community, and an inclusive spirit.
The family-friendly event featured food, local bands and educational booths about organizations such as the National Organization for Women and TEAM (Tolerance, Equality and Awareness Movement). Our Gays In Faith Together (GIFT) “Gay Christian? Yes!” table was scheduled to be there, but a family crisis kept me away.
Unfortunately, nothing deterred protestors from “Gay Day” in Cherry Park. But this was a different kind of protest. These “protestors” made vile threats against some of the women in the park, threatened to rape them and cited Bible passages as support for their threats. Other women reported that the men suggested someone should put a bullet in their head. Much of this vitriol was caught on video and audio tape.
This goes far beyond free speech. This is hate speech. Violent-inciting speech. Fear-inducing speech. The kind of speech that if not slammed as unacceptable and unfitting of anyone purporting to be a person of faith, is seen as acquiescence. These characters can be dismissed as fringe, and attention seekers, but their message of Biblically supported violence and hate leaves a stench in the air that has to be addressed.
The Bible can and has been used to support violence and dismissal of women, foreigners, blacks. As a follower of Christ, I use the Bible to show expressions of God’s love for all and to share the Christ message of celebration, acceptance and inclusion of all that God has made.
I am calling on other followers of Christ to reject and dismiss these Bible-toting characters and their message of oppression and hate which marred the day in the park.
Silence is unacceptable.
If silence is allowed to be the norm in this community, the Grand Rapids Police Department would feel no compulsion to change their stance and say they would now investigate the matter.
Initially, the GRPD said there was nothing they could do, despite video evidence of threats. Police allegedly said threats could be taken seriously if they were made over the phone. Really?
That response led people in the LGBT community to relay ,through social media, other acts of violence against them that were allegedly ignored by police. This created a sense that not everyone deserves police protection. Again, unacceptable.
But members of NOW and TEAM and yes GIFT’s “Gay Christian? Yes!” Campaign are raising their voices to say the violence and threats of violence are unacceptable in this community.
I have a special message to my lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and ally brothers and sisters of faith.
The days of “just sitting with it” because you think no one hears you or sees you, or will stand with you in solidarity, are over.
For too long we have sat silently in church pews, in classrooms, in public places, where others have felt it was their right to create an atmosphere of shame and fear.
Because you raised your voices as victims of oppression, and as oppressors of oppression a light has been shined on this community. We will continue to hold up that light.
We will not be dimmed.
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