Journey into Soulforce

Back in 1999, I participated in the 17 step journey into Soulforce.  It was a spiritual journey of readings, reflections, and preparation for joining Rev. Mel White and 200 delegates to meet with the late Rev. Jerry Falwell and 200 of his congregants.  The hope was the meeting would help convince Falwell that his anti-gay rhetoric was bringing increased suffering to families across the country.  It was the inauguration of SoulForce.  The event made news. 

Many of my friends scoffed at my going  to meet Falwell.  What good will it do?  I was also told that I was being played the fool in thinking that a person like Falwell could change his bigoted opinions.  Well, I knew that Falwell could change.  He had already changed over the years from a strict segregationist to successfully integrating his congregation on Thomas Road.  That change happened through a life long friendship with a person of color.  It was the relationship that Falwell had with this person that led to his letting go of prejudice and racism.  And that was the hope in beginning this dialog with the members of Thomas Road Baptist Church and with Rev. Falwell to develop friendships.   I had kept in contact with a few of the students I met from Liberty University for a year or so after meeting them.  So from my point of view the visit with Jerry Falwell was a success even if Jerry Falwell’s rhetoric against gays did not abate.   

About the time we arrived at Lynchburg, VA to meet with Falwell.  There was a news report claiming that Falwell had said one of the cartoonish Tinkie Winkie characters was gay and promoting homosexuality.   Soon Falwell was derided by every gay joke on TV and in the press.  It turned out however that Falwell never said this comment.  One of his staff made the comment and the association of this staff member to Falwell meant to the press that Falwell said it.  It was an untruth. 

One of the pledges I took in following the journey towards Soulforce was to uncover and name every untruth about my adversary.  Only truthful comments would be used to dialog with my adversary.  Untruthful comments would only help maintain the barriers to the truth between me and my adversary and so, I need to know what is true and what is untrue about my adversary.   The Tinkie Winkie comment was untrue about Falwell and so I could not use that comment in dialog.  

Sexual minorities are facing increased hostility in this nation.  There is pain over Obama’s selection of Rev. Rick Warren, a known supporter of Prop 8 and whose church will not allow gays to be members and will excommunicate them if found.  There is distortion and hyberbole in the media regarding Pope Benedict XVI’s annual address to the Curia denouncing gender theory causing more pain and hurt, especially in the Roman Catholic Dignity community. 

Our language can either be inclusive or it can be exclusive.  It can invite people into dialog or it can oust people from dialog.  It is one of the lessons I learned from participating in the Soulforce delegation to Lynchburg.  It is a lesson we all need to learn if we are going to mend our nation from its polar extremes. 

Rev. Jerry Falwell and his anti-gay rhetoric is now amongst the pages of history.  But I have hope that the seeds planted in meeting the 200 delegates from his congregation will one day sprout into compassion and acceptance of all people.  That’s the beauty of seeds, they can remain viable for years after they have been planted.  Waiting for the right moment, the right conditions for them to sprout and grow into maturity.   

Here is a song sponsored by Soulforce.   Blessings,

Published in: on December 25, 2008 at 1:40 pm  Comments Off on Journey into Soulforce  
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