Thank you so much for your show this morning. My partner Paula and I listened to it over breakfast and it brought tears to both our eyes. We both care deeply about the questions and conversations raised and each try, in our own ways, to "build a flourishing common life, even while holding deep disagreements" with others, and to try to do so with compassion and civility. Paula is a psychology professor at the local university (University of MN-Duluth), I'm a musician (singer & songwriter) and community organizer.
What I wanted to share with you is a song that touches on the conversation of societal and religious response to the inclusion/exclusion of GLBT people in communities of faith. First I must tell the story behind the writing of the song. One evening following a concert in Auburn, Alabama, a woman approached me with a request: Would I consider writing a song about the Knoxville, TN church shooting that took place in 2008 during a Sunday morning service at a Unitarian Universalist congregation. I said I would consider her request, and could she please send me any background info she had on the incident.
The woman was a history professor at Auburn University, and had previously lived in Knoxville and was a member of that congregation. Though she had not been present the day of the shooting, several of her friends were. Somehow, she believed, a song could help name and address what had happened, build awareness and keep conversation and action around such tragic events alive. It was another "language" to talk about the issue.
I took her request to heart, and back home, read as much background on the incident as I could find. When reading & listening online to stories & reactions surrounding the church shooting, I was immediately struck by the imagery of the gun entering into the sanctuary hidden in a guitar case. A weapon of hatred in the guise of an instrument of harmony. As a gay person, I was also struck by the fact that a hatred of gays was in part what fueled the tragic shooting. The gunman targeted that particular church because of its progressive views and its open and accepting stance toward GLBT people.
One day on a walk, I was struck by these parallel images: the guitar case carrying the gun, and the Bible, carrying passages that are used as a weapon against GLBT people, and those who would dare to openly welcome them. Some time later, an editorial in our local paper "greeted" my partner Paula and me as we were sipping our morning coffee. It was titled "Local View: Gospel can bring change into homosexuals' lives", written by a medical doctor and former pastor. Later that morning I sat down with my guitar and started this song that I wish to share with you today.
The more personal side to the songwriting story, is that all this came during the months leading up to our wedding, and that in itself had been filled with working through deep disagreements with beloved family members, struggling to "navigate disagreement" in a loving yet honest and remaining true to oneself way.
As I've learned more in depth about what happened at the UU in Knoxville--and even more so now as I reflect on the recent suicides among gay youth-- it makes me realize that such rhetoric (as espoused by the editorial) is in fact a killing rhetoric, regardless of whether the person writing the editorial was aware of this. The use of the Bible in such a way may or may not provide an actual shotgun, but it arms people with a prejudice that induces and perpetuates fear, hatred and violence. I was struck by the title of the editorial ("Gospel Can Bring Change into Homosexuals Lives"). I grew up immersed with the stories of the gospel. They are very familiar to me. The chorus of the song is an attempt to name the "change" of lifestyle I feel the teachings of the gospels were talking about.
I'll include a video link below to the song itself.
Thanks again for raising such courageous and important conversations,
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