David Cook: Give me that pro-gay, pro-family religion

David Cook: Give me that pro-gay, pro-family religion

May 14th, 2012 in Local Regional News

David Cook

David Cook

There are plenty -- and I mean plenty, from the valleys to the hills -- of people in this area who believe fully and completely in God and also the truth within the following statement, whose time has come:

Gay and lesbian folks are fine just the way they are.

And they should not have to apologize.

Or feel afraid. Or ashamed.

Or worry about going to school, or coming out to their bosses, or whether they can hold hands in certain parts of town, or if their neighbors will welcome them, or which church.

Or fear that the God of love does anything but cherish them as long as the grass shall grow and sun shall shine.

"The furious longing of God is beyond our wildest dreams," writes Brennan Manning in his new book "Patched Together."

Those wild dreams have been reduced by Nashville lawmakers to a distorted, reductionist view where queer-ness is just slightly better than leprosy.

Religious conservatism has some good properties, but being on the side of history is not one of them. A conservative interpretation of God has been used to roadblock racial integration, interracial marriage, women gaining access to social and legal equality, and now, gay rights.

From the "Don't Say Gay" bill -- which has resulted in the state Department of Education forbidding K-8 teachers from discussing homosexual issues -- to preventing cities from passing anti-discrimination laws, there was a strong spirit of legislated homophobia.

But God is not afraid of gay people.

"Our mission: to equip Tennesseans and their public officials to effectively promote and defend a culture that values the traditional family for the sake of the common good," reads the mission statement of the Family Action Council of Tennessee.

Led by David Fowler, a former state senator, FACT has the ear of many politicians and influences legislation. Fowler and I attended the same church for years, and I remember him to be kind and generous in person. No doubt, he is working overtime, driven by his own faith.

But it is not the only faith that should get invited to the table. The Gospels I read describe a Christ surrounded by outcasts and misfits. Why? They were safe -- from the priests and bullies -- with him. Accepted.

The greatest family value of all is love. Love snuffs out fear and opens the door for people to be vulnerable with one another. Love reconciles, it is music like a symphony, not a clanging gong.

Love does not condone destructive behavior. But the threats to family I see most come from screen media, which at every turn send the messages of sexual promiscuity, pornography and consumptive materialism.

I'll stand toe-to-toe with FACT to support a screen decency policy, so that certain TV images are censored at certain times. Or a media literacy campaign in high schools, which will teach teenagers to see past the sexism and violence so widespread on the screens in their lives.

Joblessness wrecks families. The human heart does, too. Not gay couples.

"In my congregation, many gay people are involved. Some of the leaders of my congregation are gay," said Gayle Tyree.

Tyree is a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga student who, along with student Kaitlin Cottle, recruited volunteers to call more than 100 residents of Wilson County, a suburban county of Nashville, asking them to support students at Wilson Central High School in their attempt to start a Gay-Straight Alliance.

"A group of students there, in response to teenager suicides prompted by anti-gay bullying in their area, wanted to start a GSA to provide a support system for gay students," Tyree said.

Phillip Parker, 14, in Smith County, and Jacob Rogers, 18, in Cheatham County, killed themselves this past school year. Both gay, they had been bullied at school repeatedly.

"The Wilson Central students had plenty of teacher sponsors. They needed one teacher sponsor and got five. They needed 25 student signatures and got 60," she said. "But their principal vetoed their application."

Tyree believes that young people across Tennessee are mobilizing on the side of the gay community.

"They're right, and justice is on their side," Tyree said.

God -- who can do nothing but love -- is, too.

David Cook can be reached at davidcook@hushmail.com.