I Am Angry and My Faith Tells Me I Can Do Something About It

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By Charles Shorter
Charles Shorter is Chair Person of LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent.  This article also appeared on Believe Out Loud. On Oct. 22, LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent in Harlem, NY, held a conference entitled “Is Your Faith Keeping You in the Closet?

I am very angry, and I am usually the consensus builder. The racial tension, violence, and the growing backlash to marriage equality and trans visibility makes the everyday life feels like a powder keg.

There needs to be some kind of release from all the pain, anger, suffering and injustice.

This summer I reached the age of 60. I have seen a lot change in New York City and in this country since my days growing up in crowded tenement housing in Harlem in the 1950’s. Ever since I was kid, I have always wanted people to play nice and share their toys.

Being a social worker for the past 25 years, I have been more of a behind the scenes person, where I feel most comfortable. But in light of this “powder keg moment” I am stepping up my advocacy and being more visible because if there is any chance to have peace and to resolve our nation’s long-standing traumas, those of us who normally sit things out will have to stand up and speak out. None of us who really believe in peace, fairness or justice for all, can sit by in silence.

I grew up seeing chaos and violence. I wanted to keep the peace as a kid in the inner city where I could be attacked for just being Black or if anyone ever figured out that I was Gay.

I see an urgent need to address the root causes of the escalating chaos and violence that seem to be sweeping our nation.

One way to end the racial tension and violence in this nation is to support and link movements for justice that seek to bring liberation to the oppressed and disenfranchised. Systemic racism is at the root of the senseless killings of black people by the police, and misguided religious dogma promotes attacks on anyone who is different or feared by the majority.

Recently I visited two historically Black Baptist churches in Harlem. Both were lead by women pastors. That in and of itself is a big change from the days of my youth where I only saw male ministers. One pastor, from her pulpit, acknowledged the male partner of the church’s former music director who had recently passed. She publicly recognized them as a couple, not “just as friends” or roommates, but as two men who cared and loved each other in partnership. She said that she was happy to see him worshipping in church with his community.

I was touched almost to tears. I was raised in the traditional Black Baptist church where no one ever dared recognize the presence of Same Gender Loving, Bisexual or Transgender folks. If we want to stop the pernicious violence against LGBT/SGLBT brothers and sisters then we have to rid ourselves of this passive religious and social silence when attacks on SGLBT people occur.

We need more affirming messages from the pulpit.

Affirming messages acknowledge that SGLBT do exist, and they help breaks the cloak of silence that suffocates both the mind and spirit.

What can a minister tell me? It’s nice to pray, but help me deal with my anger. What can we do? What is our next step? Something has to give or the violence is going to continue.

I am an eternal optimist, and my spirit has been lifted by witnessing recent changes such as the Black Lives Matter Movement. Seeing young folks coming together, serving as the genesis for change, it’s energizing. It is time to stop the rhetoric and come together. We really need to come together. We need to support and bolster this powerful and beautiful movement and broaden our reach to bring peace and justice to all in this nation. We must make sure Latinx and Native Americans are in the mix and I am also insisting that the lives of Trans folks of color to be better valued and championed. The tragic killing of Islan Nettles, a Trans woman, a few years ago in 2013 in Harlem still haunts me and the countless other murders of Trans women of color around the nation are all examples of why all Black Lives Matter.

Faith communities have a unique opportunity to build on the message of acknowledging our common humanity.

The barrier to seeing our common humanity is the fear that we have of those who are different. But the unique advantage of a faith tradition is that it can allow us to navigate our way through fearful situations. The LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent (FLoAD), a New York City-based organization that provides support to faith leaders and congregants so that they can affirm their SGLBT/LGBT members, is launching a hashtag campaign, #FearisNotFaith, to encourage those from all faith traditions (or no faith tradition) to take the lead in crossing the differences that divide us through initiatives that bring us together so that we might change the direction of nation.

If you’ve had an experience crossing boundaries, post about it on a social media platform using the #FearisNotFaith hashtag. We also encourage faith leaders, seekers and all those who believe in peace and fairness to attend our up-coming forums and events.

I am angry, but I want and need to do something about it. Join me and declare #FearIsNotFaith.

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