Let me start by saying this: I am an HIV-positive man. Marriage equality has blessed me by allowing me to fulfill a lifelong dream.
All of my life, it seems I've struggled for equal rights as an African-American, same-gender-loving man. There were times the battle was so fierce that it almost claimed my life. I even recall a time when I literally had to hire body guards to accompany me to speaking engagements and book signings because homophobic extremists threatened to show up and wreck the meeting, and do me bodily harm if I proceeded as an activist.
There were times when religious zealots who claimed to love God and stand for righteousness (but were really wolves in sheep's clothing) sought to humiliate and embarrass me in public forums when I was being interviewed on television and radio; but God had my back and enabled me to triumph in each and every situation!
I would be lying if I told you that there were not times when I was afraid. There were times I was nervous and very afraid but I always knew God was with me. Because I was black, gay, and a Christian, people in the LGBT and black communities would persecute and ostracize me because of my deep love for God and my passion to fight for equal rights for same-gender-loving people. It saddens me that in the LGBT community, as well as in the heterosexual Christian community people mistakenly believe that being same-gender-loving and Christian are mutually exclusive. But they are not and I am living proof of that! Believe me when I say that being misunderstood because I am both gay and saved is an understatement!
Still, I refused to continue living on this planet for the duration of my life being marginalized, discriminated against, and yoked by the chains of inequality and inequity.
During my childhood, I never could understand why people couldn't just leave other people alone. I wondered why they seemed to feel compelled to hurt others who thought differently and who loved differently. To me, being tolerant was, and still is the simplest thing to do!
Even though my journey has been long, frustrating, difficult and fraught with peril, it was worth it! You see my brothers and sisters, on this historic day (October 6, 2014) hundreds of thousands, if not millions all over America can freely marry the person of their own choosing - a dream I have had all my life!
I am ever so grateful to God and to all the courageous LGBTQ activists and soldiers who courageously fought for equal rights long before I was ever born. Some of these men and women made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives just to make it possible for me to stand on this precipice of time and witness the dawn of this glorious new day.
Admittedly, I am a bit tired. The battle has been long, hard, fierce, and often lonely.
Sometimes, I feel remorseful, saddened and, at times, resentful because of the life-long battle I had to continuously fight to claim and defend my right to live as I am and love who I choose. Sometimes, I feel I've spent and exhausted all of my energy to survive in an unjust and homophobic society. At times, I wonder at times if I had been allowed to blossom, thrive and mature, without restraint, censure, fear, or threat of bodily harm, how much greater might have been the effect I had on the world? How much richer and more joyous could I have made my community and my church?
Yes, at times, living my life was a battle, and I have the spiritual and emotional scars to prove it. But I believe "That which does not kill you will only make you stronger," and today I am very strong. Moreover, I intend to take this strength and use it to positively shape this world so that my children will not have to deal with the same quality-of-life-sapping obstacles that I had to overcome. In fact, my prayer is that God will continue to give me the strength to keep on fighting until the day comes when no other child--whatever his or her race or gender may be--will ever have to fear being brutally beaten and pushed aside on a playground, or left on a lonely highway, strung up on a fence and left to die just because he or she is gay.
But I think the part that grieves me the most is that while legally we have made remarkable strides, there is still so much more work to be done in African nations, and in local minority communities where being LGBT remains taboo and unacceptable. I believe famed recording artist Jennifer Holiday put it best in her stirring rendition of "Make Them Hear You," when she encouraged us and planted the seed of wisdom within us necessary to overcome all obstacles and boldly proceed in future endeavors to obtain equal rights in all facets of life--for all people.
To those who blame us for the way we chose to fight, I say this...
"Sometimes, there are battles that are more than black or white. And I could not put down my sword when justice was my right.
MAKE THEM HEAR YOU.
MAKE THEM HEAR YOU.
Don't you know your sword can be a sermon or the power of the pen.
Teach every child to raise his voice, and then, Oh My sisters and brothers, and then...
Will justice be demanded by 10,000 righteous men,
MAKE THEM HEAR YOU...
WHEN THEY HEAR YOU...
I'LL BE NEAR YOU AGAIN!"
The other day, my fiancé told me that our sixteen-year-old son [soon to be seventeen] thinks that I can do anything. I was amazed because life is filled with so many obstacles and challenges, until at times I feel that I am falling behind and failing many of life's tests. If I am able to accomplish any amazing task, it is because God is faithful to His Word and is a true miracle worker!
I have been blessed with several beautiful children (who are fluent in many languages), some very young and some are older. Admittedly, at times I struggle as a parent trying to provide for them but I never fail to give them my love because that is the one thing I am certain that they need most.
Some of my children live in one of the most homophobic nations in the world and at times this presents unbelievable challenges because we are constantly battling homophobia in the most extreme expressions. Often, I find myself on my knees praying for their well-being and petitioning God for their divine protection. What gets us through is the fact that we are truly unified as a family and agree in prayer about everything - and I do mean everything!
The simple things that most families are able to do together we are not always able to do publically because it would place my fiancé and the children in great jeopardy. But in spite of all of these challenges, the love that we share is immeasurable and we have learned to value the things that most families take for granted, like sitting down to eat dinner together and just having a conversation in the same room. What we desire most however, is to all be together this Christmas; not to merely exchange gifts but to celebrate each other and bask in the wonderful gift God has given us by making us into one family unit.
One of my prayers is to soon relocate my family to a country [like the United States or South Africa] where we can be together and enjoy the blessings of living under the same roof without having to be concerned about hateful ignorant people who threaten to literally wipe us off the planet just because [in their minds] we are not a traditional family -- as if somehow the reality that we are family threatens them. This is one of the reasons why the current cases involving DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) and Prop. 8, now before the Supreme Court is so vitally important to us and to families like ours because whatever decision they make, will most likely alter the course of our lives, perhaps for ever!
The thought of my family remaining in Uganda is inconceivable to me, knowing that our children cannot ever freely disclose anything to their teachers, school administrators or classmates about our family. One innocent slip of the tongue or earnest heartfelt disclosure could mean that we would have to flee our home, neighborhood and city like fugitives (on the run) just because two male same-gender loving parents head the household and parent innocent children.
These fears were amplified when my phone rang off the hook this morning at 4am. When I glanced over to look at the phone and saw that it was a long distance call from Uganda, I immediately assumed that my fiancé was phoning me. Enthusiastically, I picked up the phone expecting to hear my soul mate's usual greeting, but instead it was the voice of an LGBT activist whom the police had kidnapped from his home a week ago, horribly beaten, and thrown in the local jail just because he opposed the current "Kill the Gays Bill" and harsh homophobic treatment of other openly gay activists like himself. My heart broke as he cried out to me, "Bishop, Bishop please help me!" A cry I hear frequently from LGBT youth in Uganda daily. I did everything to comfort him and promised to make phone calls to other influential friends in America and Uganda to try to get him released before they either tortured him to death or illegally incarcerated him for life - which they were already in the process of doing.
Even through all of these trials seem to constantly sweep over me like a tumultuous sea, still, I am strengthened by the resolve that though the mills of justice grind slowly and the arc of the universe is long, ultimately, it bends toward justice.
Additionally, I am encouraged by my children's fortitude and I am humbled each time they express how proud of me they are. But the truth is that I am extremely proud of each one of them and thankful to God for blessing them to endure and become scholars and achievers, despite insurmountable circumstances. To God be the Glory for the awesome things He has done and is yet doing!
Dedicated to my beautiful children,
Angel Mason/Global Author/Activist
SEE ALSO "THE ANGEL IN BISHOP TERRY ANGEL MASON"
(Full interview from San Diego LGBT Weekly - newsmagazine)
THEN LISTEN TO:
THE INSPIRING, LIBERATING MESSAGE EVERY SAME-GENDER LOVING PERSON SHOULD TO HEAR
MIRACLE ON GRAPE STREET
(A Dynamic Healing Testimony)
Yesterday, while enjoying a meal with my 17-year-old son at a popular restaurant, a friend that I had not seen for some time tapped me on the shoulder with a look of surprise. It was a look that I had seen many times in the past year. I didn't even need to hear his voice to hear his thoughts. In utter amazement, he gazed at me -- somewhat perplexed -- at how someone like me whom the world had given up on to die could be looking so healthy and energetic. Even before he was able to ask, I answered his question. My reply was that my T-Cells are completely normal and that I was no longer taking a daily regimen of over 25 pills. He responded by saying, "What?!!! You mean you are no longer taking horrendous amounts of pills anymore?" He went on to express how amazed he was because when I was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS, I also had shingles, was in the beginning stages of Pneumocystis pneumonia, and I had lost a tremendous amount of weight. My viral load was 450,000 copies, and my T-Cell count was less than 100. I immediately began to tell him about how the Lord had healed my body and spirit -- yes, and even my world. I went on to tell him that I had planned on writing my story but was completely swamped with all the responsibilities that come with ministry. His reply was one that motivated me and made me think. He simply, lovingly said, "Terry Angel Mason, many people are very concerned about you and need to know that you are okay. Letting them know is ministry, so take the time to tell them about your miracle!"
I still remember the day that I made my way to the Health Clinic in North Park to obtain my HIV results. After experiencing numerous opportunistic infections, I compelled the doctor to test me for AIDS - not because I felt that I was infected. It was because I was searching for answers as to why I kept experiencing illness after illness. It's as though my mind sensed that there was something very wrong in my body and was trying to tell me what it was. To my horror, I was informed by a nurse practitioner that I had full-blown AIDS. Part of me was relieved to know what was wrong with me, but the other part of me was in complete shock! My entire life flashed in front of my face, and the spirit of death and sorrow invaded my world. Physically, I felt so ill until everything in me said, "GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM, AND DO IT NOW!" But the nurse informed me that I could not be seen by a doctor for 15 days because that was the only date that the clinic had available. So I made my way home -- too sick to walk, overwhelmed by sorrow, burning up with fever and sentenced to death by an adversary that seemed to have everything on his side.
After reaching my home, I curled up on the sofa with a comforter and just laid there, hoping and praying someone would suddenly drop by and assist me. As though directed from Heaven, that's just what happened. Two of my friends mysteriously showed up at my door, Reginald and Darryl. In their hands were chicken soup, Tylenol, Cranberry juice, and in their hearts, prayer. It was as though the Lord was trying to shine a light of hope and love in my world that was now filled with despair and shattered by hopelessness. Reginald and Darryl assured me that I would be okay and that the Lord would heal me. Even though I believed that miracles are possible with God, I had never seen anyone wage war on such an enemy as this and win. That's when another miracle happened. Thelma Collins, an HIV counselor from the Neighborhood House Association, telephoned me. She immediately made an appointment for me at the Owen Clinic and made sure that I saw one of the best physicians there, Dr. Daniel Lee. Even though I had not filled out one single form from her agency, Thelma took control of the situation and saved my life! Had she not done so, I would not be here to tell this story because my life was literally ebbing away.
Thelma made sure that I was properly treated, had food sent to my house, referred me to agencies that could assist me financially, and made sure that I had a support system in place to help me deal with the numerous emotional battles that were soon to follow.
The U.C.S.D. Treatment Center and the physicians from the Owen Clinic teamed up and pooled their resources, knowledge, and expertise together and created an awesome healing regiment that caused the virus to submit, retreat, and completely dissipate.
Compassionate ministers Reverend Reginald Gary and Reverend Amos Johnson, Jr., of New Creation Church refused to ostracize me; they refused to reject me; they refused to criticize me. Instead, they loved me, forgave me, encouraged me, and blessed me. The world renowned Bishop Clarence McClendon anointed me with oil and released the healing power of Jesus into my body. My father in the Gospel, Bishop Ikenna Anyanwu Kokayi of Christ Church of San Diego, was as loyal and loving as ever. He prayed for me (his son) with fervent prayer and supplication. My family rallied around me. Never once did I hear a critical word or any negative thing come out of their mouths. They decided to love me and stand by me no matter what. The members of my congregations -- Imani Worship Center of San Diego and Abundant Harvest Church -- demonstrated extraordinary courage, love, compassion, and unity in the face of tremendous religious opposition, criticism, and slander that no demonic conspiracy or lying tongue could destroy.
But of course there are always two sides to every story. After being diagnosed with the virus, I had to first face my congregation and tell them that I was a pastor with AIDS. I had to tell my 17-year-old son that I might not live to see him graduate from high school. And worst of all, the entire world now knew that I was one of those so-called people with the plague. And then it finally happened; the phone rang off the hook after the newspapers around the country printed my story and made it even more accessible to readers via internet. Day after day, I would receive threatening phone calls from strangers calling me "faggot," and making statements like, "You deserve to die!" I would come home from church and find threatening letters taped to my door, with perverted pornographic images drawn on them, that would be repulsive to anyone.
But the straw that broke the camel's back was the day I went down to the church to discover that someone had ripped down every one of the expensive church banners that hung from the walls around building. This broke my heart because they had been meticulously designed especially for our ministry, and the cost to print them was very expensive.
Even though I was surrounded by what seemed to be an impenetrable shield of love and compassion created by family and friends, still my heart and spirit was crushed by the stares, prejudice, and ignorance that my brothers and sisters in the community spewed out like venomous poison. People talked about my ministry even though they had never set foot in my church. They slandered me, left me for dead, and rejoiced in the fact that I was afflicted with this virus. Some even left my immediate circle of friends because they thought that I was using the media to come out. I thought to myself, there are much better ways to make an impact on the community than by admitting to the world that I had contracted AIDS! Other ministerial acquaintances criticized me for not hiding the fact that I was HIV-positive and said I was getting just what I deserved!
When I first began taking the medication prescribed by the San Diego Treatment Center, I immediately became extremely ill, but this was not a surprise because my physician and the nurse practitioners at the Treatment Center pre-warned me that this would probably happen. Brothers and sisters, when I recall those difficult days, it was as though a permanent cloud of doom loomed over my life, one that would never dissipate. As I wrestled with the virus in a desperate attempt to overcome it, I found myself plummeting into a deep pit of despair, and hopelessness and it seemed no one could rescue me from what looked would be an inevitable untimely death.
Like a stalker, loneliness, fear, and rejection began to haunt me daily, and all of my ambitions and dreams seemed to all melt away. All of my life, I had dreamed of one day being married, but now fear and rejection worked hard to demolish my dreams and joined the other demonic conspirators that warred against my very existence, as they intentionally and systematically planned to snuff out my life. This perhaps is the worst part of being diagnosed with any life-threatening illness -- experiencing the death of your dreams. No matter how spiritually strong or optimistic you may be, it is almost impossible to avoid the temptation of grieving over the death of your dreams, especially when you have AIDS.
This is a very dangerous psychological place to be in because once an individual gives up and begins to believe that his or her life is over, it is very easy for physical death to follow. Here is where the church could really play an important role in saving the lives of individuals who are infected with this virus, but the reality is that many religious institutions today are so judgmental; they often ostracize people who are infected with the virus and even families that are affected by the virus! And oh! Please don't ever mention that you are a proud same-gender-loving person with the personal conviction that when God made you, He did not a mistake, because if you do, that is almost a guarantee that you are most certainly hell bound, with a reprobate mind, and absolutely no chance of eternal redemption!
But right in the midst of all the despair, God did the unthinkable! A few months prior to my being diagnosed with the virus, I had taken a computer class at the San Diego Neighborhood House. And A few years earlier, I had also successfully completed a computer training course at the San Diego Urban League, and that incredible learning experience created a deeper hunger to know even more! While attending the six-month course, I had the pleasure of meeting a young man by the name of D'Arcy Raboteau.
When I first met D'Arcy, he appeared to be so different from me; but the reality was that we had more in common than I ever imagined. D'Arcy had a kind of Hip-Hop hard-core demeanor, with a muscular physique to match! But as the days went by, I was amazed to discover that this young man was a genius! His communication skills were excellent, and he was an incredibly gifted writer as well. I believe that when we first met, D'Arcy didn't know quite what to think of me because while he admired my writing ability, there was a question of my sexual preference, especially since he knew I was in ministry. One thing I knew for sure: he was 100% heterosexual. And while I was not physically attracted to him -- though he was incredibly handsome -- I was super impressed by his intellectual and spiritual unique attributes.
I remember the day when D'Arcy found out that I was indeed gay. Our instructor asked us to do a writing assignment that involved writing a brief autobiography about ourselves. Since D'Arcy and I often shared written information with each other in the class, he asked to see my composition. Part of me cringed inside because we had such a great friendship, and I wasn't exactly sure how he would react once he found out that one of his best buddies was gay! After reading the assignment, he said nothing; and a day or two went by without much interaction between the two of us. Being the kind of guy that I am, I didn't pressure him for an opinion; I just said to myself, what will be, will be!"
Even though we used to sit by each other most days, I purposely moved away from him and continued doing my work. After a few days, D'Arcy came over to my seat and asked me a question about an assignment; and before you knew it, we were working and conversing as usual. I was happy that our loving friendship was the bridge that helped both of us to understand that we had more in common and that our differences didn't have to doom our friendship.
Not long after enrolling in the class, I unfortunately had to withdraw from the training program because I was offered a job that caused D'Arcy and I to lose contact with each other. But then one day, D'Arcy walked into my church, and I was ecstatic to see him! Even though I had known him only a short time, D'Arcy had become very dear to me, and I really missed interacting with him on a day-to-day basis. Week-after-week, D'Arcy continued to come to church and even brought members of his family with him.
D'Arcy and I shared a deep bond of friendship, and one day, I could sense that something was really bothering him. I decided to ask him what was wrong, and that was when he shared with me that he was going through a bad break up with his wife and that all of this was taking a tremendous toll on his life, both emotionally and financially. As a matter of fact, things had become so financially overwhelming for him that he confided in me that he would probably have to move out of his apartment and wasn't quite sure how he was going to afford a new one on his own. That was when it hit me! "I said to him that I had a two bedroom apartment with more than enough room and that he could come and stay with me until his personal affairs straightened out. Little did I know that he would later become one of the greatest healing agents in my life - someone God would use to expedite my healing miracle!
Not long after D'Arcy moved in, I was diagnosed for the second time with a terminal illness. You see at the age of 29, I was diagnosed with cancer and managed to overcome that challenge. Now I was facing a foe (AIDS) that seemed to be a more formidable enemy than cancer. And even though I had survived the physical effects of battling cancer, still there lingered a residue of emotional trauma from experiencing such a traumatic event.
My disclosure of my diagnosis to D'Arcy that I was HIV positive didn't seem to change the dynamics of our relationship. As a matter of fact, D'Arcy became even more supportive, despite that he was in the midst of one of the most contentious divorce proceedings that I had ever witnessed in my life. I was just as determined to be there for him as he was for me! God, in His wisdom, knew that the best way to save both of our lives was to get both of us to not do what most people do in situations like these -- that is, to totally focus completely on ourselves. Had we fallen into this trap, neither one of us would have ever been able to emerge from our potentially tragic predicaments victoriously! In spite of the fact that both of us were hanging on to life by a thread, we were giving each other what we needed to survive, and that was support, love, friendship, prayer, and constant encouragement.
I remember days when I would go into D'Arcy's room and lie on the floor because I was so ill, but I never let him know just how bad I felt. Just being with him seemed to help me to survive the days when I was too weak to even walk and too drained to minister to my congregation, with seemingly no relief in sight. The miraculous thing was that while both of us were going through what to some would seem like living hells, we were also becoming strong in faith and eventually partnered to create a dynamic ministry where all peoples of all races, genders, and ages and persuasions could worship together in an atmosphere of love and miracles!
The reason I use the word "miracles" is because God sent hundreds to our ministry who were either physically-challenged by life-threatening illnesses or going through some emotional traumatic experience. We were able to minister effectively to them all! We literally embodied the Biblical scripture that says, "AND JESUS HEALED THEM ALL! (Matthew 12:15)."
I have often heard it said: "Churches are not havens for the saints, but hospitals for the sick!" Our ministry was literally like a spiritual hospital, and everyone who dared walked through its doors were miraculously healed in every way!
Through all of this, God never left us. He healed me, and He healed D'Arcy's life as well. Not partially, but completely. I no longer have to take tons of medication, and God has TOTALLY RESTORED my body. Friends, I was like Jesus, who found himself in a dire situation, too weak to walk and beaten beyond recognition, while attempting to complete his journey to Calvary, collapsing beneath the weight of his cross on a cobblestone road. But then out of nowhere, a man appears and lifts his cross and even lifts the Savior of the world and helps him to complete his divine mission.
God sent a man named D'Arcy Raboteau to me to do the same! There were days when the Scribes and Pharisees of our day had scourged me in the news media and had cruelly condemned me to a horrible crucifixion with their legalistic opinions and thought nothing of voicing their hatred and condemnation. Because of their unrelenting intent to destroy everything that I had ever built up ministry-wise, I often found myself in life-threatening situations, having to face homophobic abusers as I traveled about to complete my daily tasks. Things got so bad on one particular occasion that I even had to call the Police to patrol my neighborhood block so that our church facility was not vandalized and our members were not attacked while leaving the premises.
But through it all, by God's grace, I prevailed because I focused on a spiritual truth that empowered me to withstand and endure those trials, and that spiritual truth is: "No cross, no crown!" Furthermore, God has delivered me from every attack; for the Son of righteousness came to D'Arcy's and my defenses with healing and victory in His wings.
My relationships with my son, siblings, and church family are stronger than ever. This May, I will open a third ministry, and next year, a fourth. He has restored me, blessed me, and resurrected my life from the grave of despair, rejection, and loss. Many still wonder where did the virus come from? How and when did he contract it? Was it because he was a sinner or a saint? Why did God allow this to happen? I prefer to praise Him for the miracle, thank Him for the healing, and worship Him because He is the Master Physician. Now when I travel the world over -- and I will -- I can sing the words from this popular praise-and-worship song: When I look back over my life and I think things over, I can truly say that I've been blessed.
I have a TESTIMONY!" So if you are in a similar situation and things look bleak and out of control, know in your heart and mind that whatever street you live on, Jesus, the Master Physician, can meet you there, and by His Amazing Grace, bestow upon you a total healing in your mind, soul, body, spirit, and world. The Bible states, "You have not because you ask not!" So I challenge you to ask! No. I challenge you to claim God's awesome power in your life, and then you too can experience a miracle on Grape Street!
Now, may the Lord answer you when you are in distress. May the Name of the God of Jacob protect you. May He send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. May He remember all of your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings (even when you don't know how the rent is going to be paid) and make all of your plans to succeed. We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the Name of our God (and even hang them outside the church). May the Lord grant all of your requests. Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed; He answers him from His Holy Heaven with the saving power of His right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses (some in money, their mates, and religion). But we trust in the Name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall but we rise and stand firm. Psalms 20:1-8
By Bishop Terry Angel Mason
MEET THE AUTHOR AT AN EXCITING BOOK SIGNING EVENT FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2012 - SAN DIEGO, CA
-click on this link for event information-
Download this inspiring story and share it with a friend who needs healing, hope, restoration and joy!
'When an Angel Speaks'
(Special Commentary from Bishop Terry Angel Mason)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I greet you in the name of Jesus, Savior of the world and King that is soon to come!
I realize that many of you may not know me and, since you are called to lead God's people, I realize that the first thing you will want to know is what my credentials are. While I am tempted to go into great detail about who I am, I must be cognizant of the fact that this letter will be printed in numerous publications, both nationally and internationally, and cannot be lengthy.
I am first a born again child of God and a Bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ. I have been saved since the age of five, was called into ministry at the age of eight, and was ordained and licensed by ordained ministers in a credible, non-denominational church in San Diego, California, where I founded my first ministry. While I know that many of you will want to know more about my background, I ask that you not focus entirely on that issue. Respectfully, I request that the focus be solely placed on the urgent matter that prompted this correspondence -- a matter that literally deals with what I feel are life and death issues that will affect not only clergy members and leaders, but those we minister to.
Beloved shepherds, the apostle Paul warned us in the epistle of II Timothy, Chapter 3, that in the latter days, "perilous times shall come." I think we all agree that the world is experiencing exactly what he prophesied in the letter written to Timothy, his protégé. Brothers and sisters, I realize that we come from many different backgrounds and that we are as diverse in our interpretation of scripture as the varieties of flowers on earth and stars in the universe. But there are fundamental truths and basic tenants of the Gospel that I feel bind us in the spirit of unity. It is in that spirit that I address you.
God has given me an international platform as a columnist and author. As a result, I am ever careful to give Him the glory for making this possible because I know that if it were not for His favor and wisdom, I could never have achieved success on any level. In gratitude and service to Him, and because of the sincere concern I have for all of God's people, the LOVE OF CHRIST IN ME WON'T LET ME BE SILENT about the issues I am about to present.
As you know, this election year deals with many issues: contraception, the fate of Medicare and Medicaid, "Obama Care", the Citizens United decision, marriage equality, gun control, and laws (rightfully) in question like the "Stand Your Ground Laws" in Florida and many other states. This election will also serve as a referendum on whether or not the accomplishments of President Barack Obama have met the needs of the very citizens that voted him into office.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, I know without a doubt that it was the Spirit of the Lord that inspired me to write this letter to you. Moreover, I believe that if you have the Spirit of Christ in you, then the Spirit of truth will confirm this in your hearts and minds.
Given the nature of what I do in the community as an HIV/AIDS advocate, civil rights activist and pastor, I am constantly in the presence of people from every walk of life. Their concerns and needs often pain my heart in a way that I could never articulate. On many nights, I find myself prostrate in the presence of God with tears in my eyes because I see people in such dire straits on a regular basis and admittedly this is somewhat disconcerting and overwhelming!
I have lived on the earth 55 years, and I must admit that I have never seen such disregard for human beings as I have in the last few years. Jesus said that this would be, yet, admittedly, I am still amazed at how we could even consider doing things, politically speaking, that would gut and obliterate social programs that house the homeless, feed the poor, provide medical assistance to seniors, and fund education programs for our children, youth and young adults.
While I realize that many of you have been speaking out on these issues, I also know that most of us have been sinfully silent. I've come to realize this as a minister that has traveled and spoken all across the nation. Now, just so you know, I am aware of what the laws say about the separation of church and state. I am aware of the restrictions that a 501 (3c) non-profit status places on religious institutions and congregations. I know that none of us can mount the pulpit and recommend to any of our parishioners who they should or should not vote for, even though many of us do it anyway!
However, Jesus made it absolutely clear that our heavenly mandate is to lead the lost to Christ, heal the sick, clothe the naked, visit those who are in prison, teach our children the statutes and precepts in God's word, and to lovingly care for our senior adults and widows in our congregations. Jesus also made it abundantly clear that these were mandates issued by God. I realize that many of you do a great job in many of these areas, but if we made an honest assessment of whether or not we were adhering to God's orders, on a national and international scale, we would discover that we are greatly missing the mark!
Thousands of men and women are in our nation's prisons, but few of us have effective prison ministries. Countless youth, young adults and even senior citizens are infected with the HIV/AIDS virus and only a handful of us have even taken the time to set up a ministry to tend to these people because we feel unqualified to do it or because we prejudge these individuals. Moreover, more often than not, we shrug our shoulders and purposely look the other way because, consciously or subconsciously, we feel they got what they deserved. Thus, they end up being regarded as unworthy of any assistance our ministries could provide.
I urge you to find out what institutions in your city care for and offer services to the elderly, those suffering from HIV/AIDS and other life threatening illnesses. Ask if you can come and see how they run these programs and what your congregation can do to assist them. What is going to startle many of you is how many of your parishioners' faces you are going to see at these places. After you have visited these places, I guarantee you will not be so quick to mount your pulpit and foolishly bash these people and/or organizations, especially when you discover that many of them are doing a better job than you ever could, as they compassionately minister to the hundreds, if not thousands, in your congregation.
I would like to address a specific issue concerning senior members of our congregations. Sunday after Sunday, I watch elderly people struggle to climb the steps of buses in my city that shouldn't even be on the road because they are old and unsuitable to serve seniors and disabled persons. In sharp contrast, more modern and streamlined buses are assigned to rich, influential areas in our cities and neighborhoods. What is even more troubling is the fact that while many of us can afford van and bus ministries that would address these needs; we do nothing to help change the situation.
The result is that our seniors, who happen to be some of our most loyal and dedicated (tithers) and members, are forced to ride substandard buses filled with violent people, youth who use foul language and engage in drug use on the buses, and have absolutely no respect for the elderly. Furthermore, it is to our shame and our misplaced priorities that after church has concluded, many of these same seniors stand on bus stops while other parishioners pass them by in their Mercedes, Cadillac's, BMW's, or Chrysler 300's! To add insult to injury, the same parishioners wave at them and won't even stop to see if they can assist them with getting home!
I challenge each one of you to do something radical! Instead of pulling up to the church grounds in your 2012 Cadillac, BMW, Mercedes or Bentley, use public transportation to come to church for one week. I guarantee you that your entire perspective will change and that most of you will respond by making much needed changes in your ministry -- changes that will finally bring that growth and transformation that many of you have been praying for so desperately.
In 2008, many right-wing, prominent, and rich evangelicals infiltrated our ranks and convinced us to vehemently oppose Proposition 8. Over $65 million was spent to prevent same-gender-loving people from getting married because it was said that this threatened the family unit and was undermining the institution of marriage. This issue galvanized pastors, bishops, priests and parishioners and the proposition was voted down by a narrow margin. Many of us flexed our spiritual muscles thinking we had done the Lord a great service after our elite, right-wing brothers and sisters quickly retreated to the safety of their culturally and religiously isolated ranks, never to worship with us again. Well, at least until they felt our support was needed when the next issue or controversial proposition came up.
I was amazed when this happened, and I will tell you why. Just think of what the body of Christ could have done with $65,000,000! If we were really concerned about saving marriages, we could have used that money to create national counseling programs where pastors could have been trained to minister to married couples and couples who are preparing to marry. Money could have been poured into already existing credible programs that are effectively providing counseling to our parishioners, creating stronger marriage relationships, and perhaps decrease the great number of divorces in the body of Christ.
Oh my brothers and sisters, I know that it is easy to blame gays for the conditions of our failed relationships, but the truth is when we stand before Christ -- and believe me when I tell you that all of us will -- there will be no one to heap the blame upon but ourselves! Incidentally, the proposition will soon be overturned and the money used to fight it will be a wasted investment!
Many of us were ecstatic when Senator Barack Obama was elected as the first African- American President of the United States, and we vowed to support him in every way. Yet, when we discovered he was a president who had purposed in his heart to ensure that all Americans would have equal rights, no matter what their religious convictions, age, gender, or sexual orientation, many of us bailed and joined the ranks of other prominent religious leaders, many of whom are used like puppets by right-wing politicians to do their bidding.
Now, here is the horrific reality, which I find amazing! Many of us, as leaders, are willing to support a political machine that will strip away social programs that meet the needs of over 70 percent of our parishioners. We do this because we don't have a correct understanding of the office of "priest" and "king". Barack Obama was not elected or ordained by God to operate in the office of priest/pastor, but rather the office of "king", which biblically is synonymous with President of the United States.
Don't misunderstand or misconstrue what I am saying, thinking I am suggesting that any elected official is to misuse his office, forget the mandate of God, disregard the needs of the people and act like a dictator. I am simply pointing these things out to you because it is evident to me that many shepherds don't have a correct biblical understanding of these offices. All too often, they confuse the two or place expectations and demands upon the President of the United States that should never be placed on anyone who serves in this position.
Based on conversations I have had with parishioners, a substantial number of people feel that because the country now has an African-American President, many states have enacted voter suppression laws that will prevent hundreds of thousands of African-Americans from voting in the 2012 election. While we cannot immediately reverse these laws, we can begin national campaigns to make sure that everyone in our congregation has appropriate identification documents that will ensure that they can vote.
Additionally, we can creatively arrange car pools so that voters can get to polling places. Recently, I heard it announced on television that many national organizations who are responsible for getting voters registered are totally abandoning all efforts because of voter suppression laws that place them in harm's way, legally speaking, or should I say, "illegal harm's way".
If we are honest with ourselves, most of our church calendars are filled with annual days that never address any of the issues that I have mentioned. Just imagine how grateful our congregants will be when we initiate a plan to help them obtain the proper identification so that they can vote this year. Since the vast majority of our parishioners already possess these documents, this effort will not be financially cumbersome or burdensome and it is not illegal. Additionally, it does not place our religious institutions in legal jeopardy in any way.
Year after year we diligently plan for the Pastor's Appreciation Day, the Annual Usher's Day, Youth day, Men's and Women's Day, and the list goes on. We have this down to a science, but now we must refocus our efforts and ourselves and come to understand that our very livelihoods are at stake. We cannot allow the few programs that meet our educational and medical needs, as well as other much-needed social programs, to be stripped away while the rich get richer and feel no obligation to the poor, working poor or the endangered middle class.
In conclusion, I wish to state that many of us worry about the moral decay of our nation, and because this is a concern, politicians use this as leverage to distract us. They know we think that the wrath of God will come upon our great nation because we feel that much of what the "ungodly" does is in direct opposition to the Word of God. The truth of the matter is that if our nation is destroyed and/or incurs the wrath of God, it will be because we pander to the rich, while totally disregarding those who are destitute and are in desperate need of our assistance! Tragically and ironically, even if we don't like what is being done by those in positions of authority -- still, we remain conspicuously silent!
Before you discount what I am saying, or disregard this letter, I ask that you act with the same resolve and urgency when you thought the institution of marriage was being undermined because there is a real Goliath on the battle field! This giant looks like us, knows all of our religious terminology, knows exactly how we think and knows how to use what we think and believe against us. And if we are not careful, he will cut off our heads, desecrate our people and deny us our civil rights, all to benefit him and deceive us. It is only after he has plundered our parishioners and made a mockery of our spiritual mandate - THAT WE WILL BE THE ONES TO BLAME FOR LETTING THESE ATROCITIES HAPPEN!
The choice is yours! The onus is upon us, the men and women who were called to shepherd God's flock. Will we step up, embrace and demonstrate the qualities of Christian leadership with which we were gifted and protect our congregations, or will we stand indolently and apathetically aside while we bear witness to the politically-proposed evisceration of our poor, our youth, our seniors, and our already struggling and endangered middle class? Either way, I guarantee you that we will one day stand before our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and give an accounting for our actions or lack of actions. I cannot speak for you, but when The Prince of Peace asks me, "Did you feed and protect my flock?" I want to look Him in the eye with pride as I say, "Yes, Lord!", and not hang my head in shame!
In His Service,
Bishop Terry Angel Mason, Global Author and Intl. Columnist
Terry Angel Mason has been featured in the following publications and/or news venues: (Lee Bailey's) eurweb.com, The East County Magazine, Five (5) Magazine, Whosoever Magazine, SGL Weekly Magazine, Outword Magazine, The NBJC Newsletter, The Advocate, Frontier Magazine, Broadway World, The Windy City Times Newspaper, New Pittsburgh Courier, New England Informer, Our Weekly Magazine, Out Impact, The San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, The San Diego Gay and Lesbian Times, The San Diego Union Tribune, ME Magazine, POZ Magazine, The New Civil Rights Online Magazine, A&U Magazine, Religious Tolerance, Marriage Equality International, Homorazzi, BN&S News Commentary, Real Health Magazine, Q Magazine, MSNBC News Vine, ILGA, Out Military Online Magazine, Proud Parenting Web Magazine, Fuse Magazine, Echelon Magazine, The Bay Area Reporter, Connextions Magazine, and in many other publications.
To purchase Mason's books, read breaking news stories, feature articles, interviews, or obtain more information about the author, visit his website at www.TerryAngelMason.com.
When an Angel Speaks
Part 1: Don't Blame the President! Don't Blame the Congress! Blame yourselves!
It is January 2012 and the insanity of the 2012 Presidential Election has begun. I believe the word "insanity" is appropriate and succinct because of the axiom which defines the word. "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."
This adage takes on an even more prophetic and Nostradamean meaning when you consider that this fall, once again, the American people are going to the polls and insanely attempting to elect a President to lead them out of the morass, muck and mire that has submerged our country and symbolized its politics!
I contend that "insanely" is the correct word because unless we do something different, we will not effect any meaningful change, no matter who wins the White House this fall. Moreover, the different thing we must do is pause for a moment and reflect upon our choices and the actions that we must take in order to save our country, which is dangerously teetering on the edge of the abyss.
First, we must vote according to our self-interests. This is usually what most voters do, but in this Presidential election we must intelligently re-define what our most important self-interest is. Because I am advocating for the endangered middle class, I assert that the most important and critical self-interest we have is survival! The Republican party is hellbent on destroying us, the endangered middle class. Why else would Congressional and Senatorial Republicans try to eliminate Social Security and Medicare through the Ryan Plan, in addition to killing almost every job bill that the White House has proposed. These are job bills that could have added thousands if not tens of thousands of high-paying jobs to a crippled economy.
The Democratic Party has been feverishly attempting to resuscitate a grievously ailing national economy and the Republican Party is withholding the critical assistance needed to heal the patient. Why is this? You need only to recall Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's vow in 2008 when he said, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."
Let's be real! The elected Republican party officials don't care about the economy because they've morphed into the party of the rich! The reason why they don't worry about the endangered middle class is simple: They can't relate to us! They don't know how hard it is to balance a shrinking paycheck against rising expenses. They don't know the pain of losing long-held, treasured jobs because of greedy avaricious bank-initiated financial recessions. They don't lose sleep at night worrying about staving off foreclosure on their homes, despite the fact that many of us have already lost their homes! So why should the Republican party care about the endangered middle class? The answer is they don't and they never will because it's not in their best self-interest to do so. Period!
This brings me to the crux of my argument: It is an important and irrefutable fact that it's not enough for us to re-elect President Obama. We must elect Democratic Congressional representatives and Democratic senators to aid President Obama in implementing his policies. It is not enough to just vote for the man with the vision. We must also put in place people who support that vision and the visionary who sees it! President Obama should not have to do all the heavy lifting! It is our responsibility to give him some help!
What's more, it's imperative we elect enough Democrats to regain control of the House of Representatives and maintain control of the Senate. Hello, endangered middle class America, are you listening?!! It is only by the regaining and maintaining control of Congress and the White House that we can thwart and undo the grievous damage inflicted upon our beloved nation.
Make no mistake. The Republicans are masters of distraction! Their current strategy is to portray President Obama as a promise breaker. They've said he hasn't kept his campaign promises. But what they don't say is that every promise he has attempted to keep--promises ranging from rescuing the economy to delivering jobs--the Republican party has thwarted, obstructed, or down right killed!
What we have to realize is that a divided government does not work when one faction is composed of zealous extremists who would destroy the country to win an ideological point. Remember the "Debt Ceiling Crisis" and how perilously close the Republican Tea Party Congressional officials brought us to defaulting on our national debt? If that had happened, it would have destroyed our economy and plunged the world into a global depression.
What did happen was that this unnecessary political posturing resulted in the downgrading of America's credit rating. Moreover, the Republican party has the audacity and malevolent cunning to blatantly lie and falsely attribute this debacle to President Obama.
An anonymous writer who wrote under the pseudonym General R. Never said, "People deserve the government they permit!" If we permit the Republican party to pull the plug on us by refusing to wake up and vote in our own best interests and vote for President Obama and other Democrats who support him then we, the endangered middle class, deserve the inevitable pain, misery, heartache and death that will surely come.
I don't know about you, but I don't plan on "going gently into that good night." I'm going to vote for every supportive Democrat I can find!
About Global Author Terry Angel Mason
Terry Angel Mason is an internationally renowned author, columnist, keynote speaker, poet, singer, songwriter, minister, and Civil Rights activist who currently resides is Southern California. He is the author of three popular titles, Love Won't Let Me Be Silent, They Say That I am Broken, and The Dream Keeper, set to be released in 2012. A revered leader and global change agent, Terry Angel Mason's mission is to inspire, educate and empower millions around the world, and promote love and acceptance for all people. A highly sought after author and activist, Mason has been featured in (Lee Bailey's) eurweb.com, Healthy Black Men, The East County Magazine, Five (5) Magazine, Whosoever Magazine, SGL Weekly Magazine, Outword Magazine, The NBJC Newsletter, The Advocate, Frontier Magazine, Broadway World, The Windy City Times Newspaper, New Pittsburgh Courier, New England Informer, Our Weekly Magazine, Out Impact, The San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, The San Diego Gay and Lesbian Times, The San Diego Union Tribune, ME Magazine, POZ Magazine, The New Civil Rights Online Magazine, A&U Magazine, Religious Tolerance, Marriage Equality International, Homorazzi, BN&S News Commentary, Real Health Magazine, Q Magazine, MSNBC News Vine, ILGA, Out Military Online Magazine, Proud Parenting Web Magazine, Fuse Magazine, Echelon Magazine, The Bay Area Reporter, Connextions Magazine, and in many other publications.
BISHOP TERRY ANGEL MASON WAS JUST NAMED NATIONAL HIV/AIDS SPOKESPERSON FOR 2012
Follow Angel Mason on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ALOVEBALLAD
LAWRENCE, TYLER, COLLE, ASHER AND COUNTLESS OTHER LGBT YOUTH WERE MURDERED AND BULLIED TO DEATH
BUT THEY DIDN'T CALL A PRAYER MEETING AND NO ONE
SIGNED A PETITION!
It has only been a few days since I boldly marched into the KJLH radio station in Los Angeles, CA to be interviewed by Pastor Xavier Thompson, senior minister of Southern Missionary Baptist Church. This would prove to be one of the most talked about interviews on the internet since it was the result of an article that I wrote about this very charismatic minister's controversial City Wide Prayer Meeting to reverse SB 48, a bill recently signed into law by Governor Brown.
What prompted me to write the article was my complete dismay over the fact that several members of the Jordan/Rustin Coalition (an LGBTQ advocacy group) who attended the event to present an open letter to the pastor that had been written to all faith leaders in the black community regarding SB 48, were ousted from the meeting. Members of the coalition explained to the newscaster, while at the event, that they were told that if they did not leave voluntarily, they would physically be removed from the premises, if necessary.
As I sat quietly in my living room and listened to members of the coalition express their dismay about what had just happened to them, admittedly I became extremely angry. But what I did not know was that prior to the prayer meeting, the Los Angeles Sentinel had published an article announcing the prayer meeting, complete with a huge photo of Pastor Xavier Thompson splattered across the page with a headline that read: Southern Fights SB48 with City-wide Prayer Meeting, written by the Religion Editor. After learning of this, I thought to myself, "I cannot believe this! This is exactly what I was referring to in my last article entitled: The Tragic Consequences of Being an Anonymous Minority Statistic, when I wrote, "Black newspapers ignore and overlook the importance of pertinent issues that impact the lives of gay African-Americans, they tacitly approve and condone acts of hatred and homophobia. Black publications depend heavily on financial support from religious institutions, and indirectly these papers must shoulder some of the responsibility for the spread of the virus because an innumerable amount of anti-gay sermons have been preached from their pages."
Immediately after my article was published denouncing what appeared to me to be the ultimate insult against the LGBTQ community, I was immediately contacted by Rev. Thompson via email to which I promptly replied. After speaking with him several times, we arranged a time to meet. During the meeting, Rev. Thompson stressed to me that he had nothing against the LGBTQ community and that he was totally unaware that the members of the Jordan/Rustin Coalition had been asked to leave since he was inside of the meeting conducting the prayer rally.
He further explained that the guards had been hired because once it was made known through the media that he was planning the event, he immediately began to receive death threats and was advised by the Los Angeles Police Department to hire security officers to prevent any violent attacks of any kind while the event was in progress. He admits that the security officers did not receive the proper orientation prior to the meeting and overreacted as a result of a heightened sensitivity in an effort to ward off any potential danger.
As I sat next to Pastor Thompson in the radio studio, he publicly apologized to the Jordan/Rustin Coalition and has since then reached out to them to coordinate a reconciliation meeting and he claims to also want to form alliances with other LGBTQ groups and organizations in the city. In attendance at the radio broadcast were his lovely wife and other enthusiastic members of his congregation. During the taping, Rev. Thompson expressed to the listening audience that both he and I were passionate and unrelenting about our positions, but were not at odds with one another personally and that we had simply agreed to disagree in spirit of respect and civility - and this is true! I do respect Rev. Thompson's constitutional right to disagree with my stance and I am not even going to call him a "HATER or BIGOT" for doing so! I even applaud him for the fact that he boldly stated to thousands if not millions of listeners that he didn't believe that all same-gender-loving people were hell bound - something most black evangelical ministers would never do!
But there is one question that came to mind as I glanced through the many photos posted on Rev. Thompson's Facebook page from the event. I would like to ask Rev. Thompson and every person that attended that meeting to repeal SB 48, why is it that no one called a citywide prayer meeting with the same passion and zeal when 15-year-old Lawrence King (a gay child) at E.O., Green School in Oxnard, California was killed in class by a fellow student? Newsweek has described the shooting as "the most prominent gay-bias crime since the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard", bringing attention to issues of gun violence as well as gender expression and sexual identity of teenagers.
Why is it that it did not weigh heavily on anyone's heart to call a citywide prayer meeting to express their outcry and outrage when a Cal State Long Beach transgender student, Colle Carpenter, was cornered in a campus restroom by an assailant who carved "It" on his chest or when Tyler Clementi's roommate illegally streamed a video of him being intimate with another male student, outing him for the entire world to see, and as a result, killed himself the next day? Where was the legislative passion necessary to guarantee the safety of our children? You know; the same children that the religious right (the opponents of SB 48) claim to be so concerned about protecting when Asher Brown, an eighth grader at Hamilton Middle School in Harris, TX was bullied and taunted by classmates on a daily basis so horribly and consistently until he decided to end his own life, just days after coming out to his parents.
Oh, but I get it. These children are not worthy of protection or any safe space because they are perceived by the local and national religious community as being demon possessed, mentally deranged, or bewitched by the white gay community because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Yes, Pastor Thompson, I looked at the hundreds of hands lifted heavenward in the photos of parishioners and community leaders from all over the county who were in attendance at the SB 48 City Wide Prayer Meeting. As I glanced through the photos, I could see how they were piously petitioning and invoking God's power to omit the contributions of the LGBTQ community from history books. But, I also know that what may appear to the naked eye to be just courageous community activists and spiritual leaders making an urgent heavenly petition, to me, is just another proposed Ugandan Gay Genocide, only cleverly disguised and dressed up in American religious legalism.
And, you can count on all the grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles, aunts, church mothers, fathers, deacons, trustees, pastors, priests, bishops and evangelists who were in attendance to pray in agreement with you that the bill be overturned, that is at least until one of their grandchildren, or extended family members is brutally murdered at the hands of some desensitized homophobe who felt completely justified doing so because he reasoned that if we devalue the historical contributions of the LGBTQ community and consider them unworthy of even documenting historically -- then certainly, their human lives couldn't be of any value either!
What saddens me all the more is the hurtful and hypocritical attitude of the churches that is still prevalent today as mentioned in this article. When will they realize that God considers all of His children's lives precious and sacred including the aforementioned LGBTQ youth who were murdered, tortured, and even bullied to death? When will the church and its members realize that Christ's admonishment, "Whatever you do to the least of them, you also do unto me!" is a divine indictment against such uneven applied Christianity? Furthermore, when will they realize that the teachings of Christ exhorts us to demonstrate love and compassion to all of God's children, not apathy and indifference! Until they understand the consequences of their misdirected religious actions, then I guess they will continue to hold citywide public prayer meetings to advocate for their intolerance and ignorance, while Heaven awaits for more truly Christ-loving and Christ-centered churches to pray for and advocate for Lawrence, Tyler, Colle, Asher and the thousands of other LGBTQ youth who were murdered and bullied to death!
About Global Author Terry Angel Mason
Terry Angel Mason is an internationally renowned author, columnist, keynote speaker, poet, singer, songwriter, minister, and Civil Rights activist who currently resides is Southern California. He is the author of three popular titles, Love Won't Let Me Be Silent, They Say That I am Broken, and The Dream Keeper, set to be released in 2012. A revered leader and global change agent, Terry Angel Mason's mission is to inspire, educate and empower millions around the world, and promote love and acceptance for all people. A highly sought after author and activist, Mason has been featured in The East County Magazine, Five (5) Magazine, Whosoever Magazine, SGL Weekly Magazine, Outword Magazine, The NBJC Newsletter, The Advocate, Frontier Magazine, Broadway World, The Windy City Times Newspaper, New Pittsburgh Courier, New England Informer, Our Weekly Magazine, Out Impact, The San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, The San Diego Gay and Lesbian Times, The San Diego Union Tribune, ME Magazine, POZ Magazine, The New Civil Rights Online Magazine, A&U Magazine, Religious Tolerance, Marriage Equality International, Homorazzi, BN&S News Commentary, Real Health Magazine, Q Magazine, MSNBC News Vine, ILGA, Out Military Online Magazine, Proud Parenting Web Magazine, Fuse Magazine, Echelon Magazine, The Bay Area Reporter, Connextions Magazine, and in many other publications.
Follow Angel Mason on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ALOVEBALLAD
(As supporters of gay rights were kicked out of Southern Missionary Baptist Church last week, Terry Angel Mason was reminded of the church's better days fighting for equality.)
The scene that unfolded last week as proponents for gay rights were expelled from Southern Missionary Baptist Church in California seemed out of sync with its history. It's not how I remember the community.
The year: 1963. The place: the very same popular and well attended black church nestled on the west side of Los Angeles. The political climate: blacks engaged in a revolutionary struggle against Jim Crow laws, hoping to eventually eradicate them and acquire civil rights -- a struggle that would ultimately change the political climate of America forever. Standing in the wings is a young visionary by the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., destined to emerge as leader of this new cutting-edge movement and perhaps the most revered and inspiring black civil rights leader humanity has ever known.
At the piano is the incomparable Bertha Keys, daughter of the renowned Dr. Rev. Kelly Keys (pastor of the church) and over in the opposite corner, an extremely gifted organist (affectionately known as Jimmy). Center stage is a choir stand filled with young talented voices from all over the city. Suddenly the music begins to play and in typical worship fashion, feet begin to tap, hands begin to clap and the music fills the huge sanctuary as a young man only 9 years of age walks down the aisle singing from the depths of his soul, "Rock-a-my soul in the bosom of Abraham, oh rock-a-my-soul!"
Suddenly one of the church mothers rises to her feet, followed by hundreds of other parishioners and shouts to the 9-year-old boy, "Sang baaaaaaby sang!" Hats begin to fly, wigs get turned around, and purses get tossed in the aisle as ushers rush to parishioners' sides in an effort to calm down those who appear to be overwhelmed with emotion from the Holy Ghost, as they dance in the aisles vocalizing shouts of praise.
The little child singing is me, Terry Angel Mason, only one of hundreds of other same-gender-loving children who grew up in this church and spent what seemed like thousands of hours in worship services, choir rehearsals, prayer meetings and participating in countless other church events.
Now the year is 2011 and reflections of Jim Crow are as apparent as it was in the '60s, as evidenced by the emergence of radical right-wing groups like the Tea Party, STOP SB 48 and religious extremists known as The Family. Now, same-gender loving people have moved to the forefront of the modern day Civil Rights Movement as we struggle to achieve equality, not just for ourselves but for all disenfranchised and marginalized people who are victims of homophobia and discrimination.
The new Southern Missionary Baptist Church that was recently caught on video cameras as gay people were ejected from the premises has been transformed from a traditional red brick building to a new contemporary stucco building with beautiful stained glass and lush red pews that replaced the old wooden ones damaged by an earthquake. The pastor now is Xavier L. Thompson, who invited clergy on Wednesday from all over Los Angeles County to Southern Missionary Baptist Church in an effort to overturn SB 48. The law, which was recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, and which is dubbed the FAIR Education Act, ensures the correct teaching of the history of the LGBT community, along with that of the disabled and other minorities.
As a civil rights activist I am not surprised that black religious leaders would attempt to reverse this legislation because of the false and inaccurate distortions that have been purposely spread in the black community about the bill.
The opponents of SB 48 have once again skillfully and masterfully played upon the deeply entrenched homophobic prejudices of the black church. They have once more distracted black religious leaders by distorting the issues that SB 48 addresses.
"We believe you cannot sexualize history," Pastor Thompson explained to a news crew.
But the new law has nothing to do with sex. It merely enforces the fair writing of history, meaning all those who have meaningful and positively contributed to history should have their contributions accurately chronicled regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or disability. It is a bill that promotes inclusiveness and proscribes and prohibits the bigoted omissions that have denied Americans the complete truth about how all types of Americans have contributed to this great land of ours.
But because the black church has been so historically and irrationally homophobic, all the opponents of SB 48 had to do was wave the rainbow flag in their faces, invoke the word "homosexual" and then sit back and cunningly watch as Black religious leaders do their dirty work by mobilizing to repeal a bill that actually honors and protects the contributions of all minorities, regardless of race and sexuality. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Moreover, in their fanatic zealousness to begin this misguided process of repeal, the leaders of Southern Missionary Baptist Church committed one of the most un Christ-like actions of all -- they expelled from the church all other interfaith religious leaders and proponents of SB 48 who peacefully attended in order to dialogue with them. They even implied physical threat if gay rights supporters refused to leave.
What kind of message does this send to our LGBT youth? What message does it send to the 9-year-old boy who verges on a fight for his own emotional, spiritual and physical survival as he sits in those same pews Sunday after Sunday, hearing himself marginalized and damned to hell?
What kind of message are those of us who are Christians sending to that little boy, and to the world, if we do not step up and speak truth to power and firmly declare that our God is a god of love, mercy -- and equality.
Terry Angel Mason is a gay HIV/AIDS activist and author. His book Love Won't Let Me Be Silent speaks about homosexuality and homophobia in the black community. Look for his upcoming book, They Say That I Am Broken, this fall.
The Tragic Consequence of Being an Anonymous Minority Statistic!
It is common knowledge that at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, gay men in many countries were frequently singled out and targeted for physical abuse. Why? Because they were seen to be responsible for the spread of HIV. This view was fueled by sensational reporting in the press that became progressively homophobic.
This homophobia was reflected in newspaper headlines such as "Alert Over 'Gay Plague'," and "'Gay Plague' May Lead to Blood Ban on Homosexuals!" Those and others like them were essentially a form of "yellow journalism" that demonized the gay community even more! As a result, U.S. groups monitoring homophobic violence reported an increase in incidents when public awareness about AIDS in America heightened in the 1980s. Today, this targeted abuse seems very unlikely to end in the near future (especially in America), especially since the CDC recently announced in a stunning report that young people in the United States are at persistent risk of HIV infection. This risk is particularly high for minority and ethnic youth, ages 13 to 29.
Currently, homophobia is not only a national concern. The intolerance it breeds also continues to be a major international barrier to ending the global AIDS epidemic and hate crimes against same-gender-loving people. In many countries, such as Uganda and Ghana, stigma and discrimination prevent men who have sex with men from accessing vital HIV prevention, treatment and care services. Without a doubt, if we are ever going to prevail over the AIDS virus, tackling and combating homophobia must become an essential priority in order to encourage individuals (who fear for their safety) to get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, which are on also on the rise.
Every so often, however, there's a glimmer of hope. This year, the United Nations passed a resolution--hailed as historic--that endorsed the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender people for the first time ever. The resolution expressed grave concern about acts of violence and discrimination committed against individuals in all regions of the world because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. While it is tempting to point a finger at other countries, such as Uganda and Ghana, and condemn them for their extreme homophobic acts and heinous crimes against same-gender-loving people, we must also realize that "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."
Simply put, even though we pride ourselves on living in a technically and socially advanced democratic society and the United Nations was instrumental in proposing their Resolution, in many ways we are hypocrites! For many years, America has allowed bigots and religious extremists to enshrine countless unethical laws that illegally deny same-gender-loving people equal rights, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (in almost every state) in our own constitution.
Many religious leaders and right-wing politicians use the Bible to justify their outlandish actions. What's more, many also feel absolutely no remorse for their homophobic statements that fuel attacks on innocent people of all sexual orientations. Just as racist bigots in the Civil Rights era used scripture to justify their heinous attacks and social oppression of black people and women, these leaders use similar tactics. Can't people see the same pattern being repeated here? Nowhere is this attitude more prevalent than in our current political climate. As presidential candidates debate, many extol divisive and inflammatory rhetoric. In doing so, they pander to the most extreme elements in the electorate as they campaign on a desperate quest to solicit and garner conservative votes.
Is it any wonder then that the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs' researchers recently published a report that noted a 23 percent increase in murders of LGBT and HIV-affected people in the United States, the second highest yearly total ever recorded?
According to the Advocate:
Twenty-seven LGBT people and HIV-affected people were killed in 2010, according to the latest numbers from the NCAVP. Total incidents of violence, which include victims who survived, were up 13% from 2009 to 2010. The statistics found that LGBT people of color and transgender women were subject to a disproportionate number of attacks--70% of the 27 murders in 2010 were LGBT and HIV-affected people of color, while transgender women made up 44% of the murder victims.
In order to understand the cause of these disturbing attacks that disproportionately affect LGBT minorities, one need only recall the disturbing interview with J.L. King, author of the controversial book On The Down Low: A Journey into the Lives of Straight Black Men Who Sleep with Men, and the former queen of daytime television, Oprah Winfrey. The interview was an alarming, bold confession of what life was like for him, a Black man on living life on the down low. King immediately garnered national fame and became a trusted, self-proclaimed HIV prevention activist and educator to the nation (especially Black America). The show was promoted by a sensational trailer that warned viewers, "It's a shocker. It's called on the 'Down Low': Men with wives and girlfriends secretly having sex with other men.
Immediately after that interview, a series of articles published in Essence, Vibe, and the Washington Post attempted to expose a secret sexual cultural phenomenon called "the Down Low." Although those articles caused somewhat of a stir, I agree with Johari Osaze Jabir, an artist and African-American studies lecturer, that none were as troubling as one that appeared on Sunday, August 3, 2003 in the New York Times Magazine cover page article entitled "Double Lives On The Down Low." Written by journalist Benoit Lewis, the work sent a shock wave through the African-American community as the article aired some very dirty laundry. Jabir properly noted that while the previous articles in Black publications were written and read by black people, Benoit's piece, displayed on the cover of the Sunday magazine for the entire world to see, had far more impact!
Among the story's many shocking insights, the article revealed that after 25 years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic not only had HIV infection rates steadily climbed for African-American women, but black religious institutions, in particular, created and supported homophobia within black communities. The result of this homophobia, according to the article was the birth of a subculture of dishonesty and denial with respect to black masculinity, desire, and sexuality. In addition, this subculture sabotaged any attempts at HIV prevention and/or treatment, the article said.
In my popular new book Love Won't Let Me Be Silent, I pointed out the tremendous negative influence that hip hop has had on the nation (in regards to the LGBT community) as a whole. Many are reluctant to admit this, but the denial is particularly vehement in the African-American community. Even today, although much of the homophobic language has been toned down in contemporary rap lyrics, there are cleverly disguised subliminal homophobic messages that still make it absolutely clear that being gay is totally unacceptable and definitely not manly!Personally, I feel that most hip-hop artists will never truly fully embrace same-gender-loving people publicly. What's more, some gay and lesbian hip-hop artists conceal their orientation, as Terrence Dean, author of Hiding Within Hip-Hop, asserts. Clearly, these and many other factors all contribute to the rise in attacks against both HIV-positive and -negative same-gender-loving people, Because I have ministered in the black church for over 40 years, I am very aware of how their refusal to address issues such as HIV/AIDS and the fact that there are thousands of same-gender-loving people within its congregations has gravely crippled us. But there is one more commonly overlooked culprit. The African American community has hundreds of local newspapers and online publications that frequently omit many pertinent issues concerning the gay community, with the exception of such extraordinary black newspapers as the New England Informer and the New Pittsburgh Courier. (Full disclosure: Both papers have also published my blog content and columns.)
But too many black newspapers don't possess the journalistic integrity to follow the outstanding leadership demonstrated by these two exceptional papers. These other black publications depend heavily on financial support from religious institutions. This means indirectly and, perhaps, unfortunately, these papers must shoulder some of the responsibility for the spread of the virus. Why? Because of innumerable anti-gay sermons preached from their pulpits. Ironically, the original purpose of the free press was to inform and educate their readership about vital issues that affect and impact the lives of its readership. But when black newspapers ignore and overlook the importance of pertinent issues that impact the lives of gay and straight African-Americans, they tacitly approve and condone acts of hatred and homophobia.
One example of this is the incident concerning Rev. Rick Warren, well- as witnessed by the case of Christian evangelical minister Rev. Rick Warren, Martin Ssempa's mentor. Ssempa was the chairman of the anti-homosexuality task force in Uganda who attempted to solicit Warren's advice when devising horrific homophobic laws in his administration's "Kill The Gays" bill. Rev. Warren, who had previously made his anti-gay feelings known from the pulpit, never responded to Ssempa. Perhaps this was because when Ssempa revealed his "Kill the Gays" bill, the magnitude of how evil and oppressive this legislation was, was revealed! Rev. Warren attempted political and spiritual damage control by issuing conciliatory videos pleading for tolerance and putting distance between himself and Ssempa. But Rev. Warren never issued an outright condemnation of Ssempa's bill. Instead, he issued a comment that his calling did not include interfering in the political process of other nations.
But in my opinion, Rev. Warren's position may still be viewed as a personal endorsement of Ssempa's genocidal bill. It brought to mind the words of British statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke who prophetically said, "All evil needs to triumph is for good men to do nothing!" The same can be said about newspapers that ignore their original mandate to speak truth to power and prefer to place their love of money above the public good.
We, as a nation must evolve. We must move forward and we must embrace the more noble aspects of our humanity. Needless to say, it won't be easy; it never is! Nor is living easy, particularly for HIV individuals who are being assaulted, as you read this, or all the transgender women who are being murdered, or the thousands in the LGBT community, white and black, male and female, who desperately and simply want to live as God created all his children to live--happily and freely because we were all made in His image!
by Terry Angel Mason, Global Author & Intl. Columnist
THE VIDEO YOU MUST SEE!
Marsha Ambrosius sings about these crimes against humanity - Far Away
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Three days after penning this article two black men were murdered in Iowa and Mississippi:
James Craig Anderson -- Brutally Murdered in Mississippi
Marcellus Richard Andrews -- Brutally Murdered In Iowa
JOIN THE INTERNATIONAL OUTCRY AGAINST HOMOPHOBIA!
(When will the madness ever end?)
"A vicious immoral insanity has invaded Uganda like a biblical plague, and is now eating away at her soul and festering amongst her people like a virulent malignant disease. Moreover, this plague, if not stopped, excised and exorcised from Ugandan culture, will continue to incite more political oppression, more unjustified murders and more unwarranted and illegal imprisonments. This insanity that I refer to is extreme homophobia, which has been tragically and purposely imported into the country by Right wing Christian evangelical leaders, resulting in disastrous consequences for the people of Uganda. This intolerant mindset has been eagerly and cruelly embraced by Ugandan government officials, who have now codified this extreme form of homophobic genocide into their very country's constitution..."
These prophetic, compelling words grabbed the attention of the entire international community in an article penned by my personal assistant Asim (Editor, Author and Creative Writer) and I, entitled: AN OPEN LETTER TO THE ARCHITECTS OF THE UGANDAN GAY GENOCIDE. Even though we both hoped these words would never come to fruition, and that somehow the human rights violations being committed against same-gender-loving people would at least taper off, if not stop all together, regretfully, they have not! In fact, on July 20, 2011, Paul Evans Aidoo, the Western Region Minister of Ghana, urged "landlords and tenants" to report suspected homosexuals and suggested gays should be rounded-up in an effort "to get rid of these people in the society." The comments followed the announcement that 8,000 gay men have registered with AIDS charities in the area. Not long after this information was disclosed, Muslims and Christians began staging anti-gay protests and The Christian Council of Ghana called on Ghanaians not to vote for any politician who believes in the rights of homosexuals.
Before I go any further with this article, I want to state that I know for a fact that there are far more than just 8,000 LGBT people living in Ghana because it is a proven fact statistically that same-gender-loving people who live in areas where they are stigmatized and marginalized, that hundreds if not thousands never disclose their sexual preference to anyone! As an author, Civil Rights Activist and AIDS advocate, I can personally attest to receiving countless emails from African same-gender-loving people who reach out to me all the time. I am often overwhelmed by their numerous requests for advice and reading materials, so I know firsthand that 8,000 is only a drop in the bucket! I can't tell you how many sleepless nights I've spent agonizing over the plight of my brothers and sisters in Africa because they are so severely oppressed, jailed, abused and even put to death simply because they are gay!This heinous mandate (to round up the gays and kill them) bares a chilling resemblance to the recent proposed Ugandan Gay Genocide and the evil mandate issued by Adolph Hitler and his monstrous regime before the Enlightenment, when Jews (like same-gender-loving people) were hated because they were different and refused to assimilate. The word, "GENOCIDE" seems to be the theme of Africa, known also for the horrific Rwandan holocaust, where an estimated 800,000 people in the small African nation of Rwanda were brutally murdered!
You may recall that not long ago, The Obama administration introduced its first statement calling for the United Nations' top human rights body to combat discrimination against gays and lesbians around the world, implementing a U.S. reversal from years of ambiguity on the subject during the presidency of George W. Bush. "We are very concerned that individuals continue to be killed, arrested and harassed around the world because of their sexual orientation or gender identity," said Suzanne Nossel, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations. "This statement sends a strong message from across the globe that such abuse should not be tolerated. Again, I can only applaud the Obama administration for championing equal rights for all same-gender-loving people across the globe, especially in view of the recently proposed gay genocide in Uganda!"
Both Ghana and Uganda and other surrounding countries' inhumane acts of violence and overt discrimination directed at same-gender-loving people have blinded them to truth and compassion which subsequently has clouded their good judgment and sense of self-preservation. It now also threatens to undo 30 years of progress made against the spread of the virus as previously stated in the aforementioned article. We are already seeing signs of these repercussions, since thousands refuse to seek medical care, fearing that doctors, nurses and practitioners will disclose their sexual preference--something mandated by both Ghanaian and Ugandan's Legislators. The daunting reality is that millions more will die, not only in Ghana, but all throughout Africa needlessly because of fear, ignorance and intolerance.
What I find amazing is that the use of laws to arrest, prosecute or imprison individuals for consensual same-sex relations in private or on the basis of their gender identity or expression is a violation of Ghana's international human rights obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The rights enshrined in these international treaties include the rights to privacy, freedom from discrimination, equal treatment under the law, freedom of expression, association and assembly. The Ghanaian government has obligations under these standards to promote, respect and protect the human rights of its population without distinction or discrimination of any kind, including on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Ghana's own constitution recognizes the right to freedom from discrimination in Article 17. Furthermore, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, ratified by Ghana in 1989, affirms the equality of all people. Article 2 affirms the right to freedom from discrimination, article 3 guarantees equality before the law and article 26 outlines the duty of all individuals not to discriminate, and to "maintain relations aimed at promoting, safeguarding and reinforcing mutual respect and tolerance."
It is well known globally that many African nations depend heavily on outside support from other countries because of the severe poverty ravaging the continent. This is why the threat of proposed sanctions against the Uganda government was effective and helped to neutralize and dismantle the "Kill the Gays Bill." These distasteful, inhumane acts grieved the international community to such an extent that humanitarian activists united with an unrelenting resolve, driven by the spirit of justice, vowing never to rest until Uganda was forced to eschew, foreswear, and permanently renounce all efforts to imprison gays for life and/or kill them.
Often, international advocates warn that global pressure could be misconstrued and have an adverse effect. However, even though some caution that international sanctions could be seen as an attempt to impose foreign values on a sovereign country, we cannot sit idly by and do nothing lest we also be found just as guilty as the crazed homophobic abusers, who beat, rob, rape, unjustly imprison, and even murder innocent same-gender-loving people in these oppressive nations. There is no doubt in my mind that despite the possibility of a backlash from African countries who may resist global intervention; international pressure is essential, necessary and needful in order to send a message to reactionary African nations that any such type of horrific genocidal legislation will never be tolerated, nor condoned! Moreover, we, the civilized nations of the world community, must send these purveyors and architects of such cruel inhumane bigotry and genocide a clear strong, unambiguous, and resounding message! A message that proclaims such blatant and overt contempt and willful disregard for the rights and safety of its citizens will always be met with moral outrage, international censure, and financial sanctions, without question or hesitation!
It is important to note that even though American Right Wing Evangelicals were not directly responsible for inspiring this travesty of injustice in Ghana, still, they cannot be completely absolved of responsibility for it, since for decades they have infused African people with a spirit of intolerance and homophobia that has even grieved the heart of the very Creator Himself!!! While many discount the accuracy of the Holy Scriptures and multitudes flee legalistic driven houses of worship (and rightfully so) because of narrow-mindedness, homophobia and gay bashing from the pulpit, still I can't help but wonder (as a proud same-gender-loving believer) if the following particular scriptures have accurately and historically framed this overt insane expression of hatred, when they foretold of a time when men would kill each other in the name of the Messiah, foolishly thinking that they are doing God a service; a time when the love of men would grow cold and men would be fierce despisers of those that are good, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, and extremely brutal? Even so, I am encouraged because I know that these same scriptures declare that perfect love casts out fear, and that the power of love always triumphs over injustice! While the mills of justice may grind slowly, ultimately justice will prevail if you and I will boldly step up to the plate and take aggressive action! We must never forget the words of Edmund Burke who said, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
In conclusion, we should all turn our attention towards beautiful New York harbor, to Ellis Island, where stands The Statue of Liberty. This icon of Human Rights continues inspiring, illuminating, and enlightening the world. This wonderful gesture of kindness and symbol of freedom was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States and is a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. This is why I call on all democratic nations of the world, the United Nations, Congress and President Obama to emulate and duplicate the heroic and compassionate example of The U.K. and likewise offer political asylum to the persecuted same sex community of Ghana and Uganda. Surely, these famous words inscribed upon the Statue of Liberty which I now quote, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" should include them as well!
By Terry Angel Mason, Global Author and Intl. Columnist
This article is featured in my new book: THEY SAY THAT I AM BROKEN
About Global Author Terry Angel Mason
Terry Angel Mason is an internationally renowned author, columnist, keynote speaker, poet, singer, songwriter, minister, and Civil Rights activist who currently resides is Southern California. He is the author of three popular titles, Love Won't Let Me Be Silent, They Say That I am Broken, and The Dream Keeper, set to be released in 2012. A revered leader and global change agent, Terry Angel Mason's mission is to inspire, educate and empower millions around the world, and promote love and acceptance for all people. A highly sought after author and activist, Mason has been featured in The NBJC Newsletter, The Advocate, Frontier Magazine, Broadway World, The Windy City Times Newspaper, New Pittsburgh Courier, New England Enquirer, Our Weekly Magazine, Out Impact, The San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, The San Diego Gay and Lesbian Times, The San Diego Union Tribune, ME Magazine, POZ Magazine, The New Civil Rights Online Magazine, A&U Magazine, Religious Tolerance, Marriage Equality International, Homorazzi, BN&S News Commentary, Real Health Magazine, Q Magazine, MSNBC News Vine, ILGA, Out Military Online Magazine, Proud Parenting Web Magazine, Fuse Magazine, Echelon Magazine, and in many other publications.
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How allowing gays to marry in California could rescue a State teetering on the brink of bankruptcy-
A Time For Us And Marriage Equality!
"Today, you would think that because I am an African-American, that I would have awakened with a new zest for living, a belief that all things are possible and a renewed hope in America, the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. But instead, I felt a chilling numbness emotionally very similar to the kind of feeling that I experience when someone close to me in my family has just died!"
These were the words penned in my Pulitzer Nominated book, "Love Won't Let Me Be Silent" after Proposition 8 passed in California, amid the euphoria and jubilation of electing America's first African-American President. At that time my feelings were very conflicted because there was a part of me that was overjoyed because Barack Obama had been elected. Conversely, another part of me was in complete despair because of the bigotry and hatred that would later take on the form of denying same-gender-loving people the right to adopt children in other states and/or the right to wed the person of their choosing; in addition to the countless suicides, abuse and extreme acts of violence committed against LGBT community - all the direct result from the implementation of this hideous Bill!
Prior to the passing of Proposition 8 (aka Prop. 8), African-American clergy, Catholics, Evangelicals, Mormons and some non-denominational Christians urged their parishioners to vote "YES" on Prop. 8, ignoring and completely disregarding the fact that thousands of LGBT people attend their churches and participate in every aspect of ministry, pay their tithes, and have an undying devotion to the ministry. Parishioners were told, "We must do everything we can to preserve the Institution of marriage." Oh, if they would have only acted earlier with the same fervor years ago, perhaps heterosexual Christians would not lead the country in divorces and separations -- long before Prop. 8, gay marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships were ever established.