Independence Day

On this day in 2009, at 11:51AM Eastern Time, I went on Twitter and changed my world forever.

I had been bothering over something all morning. I had read an article about a church in Michigan that had disbanded their ministry that gave food to people experiencing homelessness rather than serve people who were LGBT.

This really pissed me off. On multiple levels.

I vague tweeted about it earlier in the day.

Again, the church that claims the name of Jesus would rather be right than compassionate. I love the church, but they don’t make it easy.

You have to understand that up to that point, we had been largely supported by Evangelical churches – not because our theology agreed with them, but because they said yes. Every Mainline or left of center church we approached either demurred or tied me up in committees for months. The Evangelicals would say yes quickly.

And I learned how to dance. I would couch what I said to them in ways that made them think I agreed with them, or at least, that they would not disagree with me. I once joked and said that fundraising in those days was like being a phone sex operator. I made the noises they wanted to hear, and then they gave me money.

But it was grating on me. I argued I was doing good work with their money – and I was. But more and more I came to see that the church was my actual “mission field” – that if the work of conversion needed to be done, it was converting those who would erect barriers to keep people out, who would gate keep love, that would put limits on God’s love and grace.

So it wasn’t so much this article I read itself, but more like it was the final breaking point. I decided, in a fit of anger, that I was done with dancing. I didn’t consult anyone. Didn’t warn anyone. Didn’t even really think it was going to be as bad as it was.

I tweeted the following post from the Twitter account of the small scrappy Christian Ministry I had started a few years before. And almost instantly, my world changed.

We will feed anyone, regardless of who you pray to or who you love. And we welcome ALL people of faith or no faith to help us.

I hit send on that tweet and set off an absolute shitstorm.

I lost two advisory board members that day. Over the next three months, I would lose most of the Evangelical churches that supported us. Three other folks who had been with us from the beginning left. Half our income was gone inside a month. I got a job selling hotdogs late at night outside a local leather bar to pay my rent.

I had, at that point, been married for just over a month.

I was terrified. We barely survived. I questioned my call to that work, my suitability to that work, and many other things. But I never regretted sending that tweet.

And I learned some things that year.

I learned who my friends were, and made many new ones. Queer folk rose up and saved us, promoted us, and fought for us.

I learned that I could look failure and fear in the face and survive.

I learned that if I don’t take your money, you don’t get to tell me what to do.

And that everything I wanted in life was on the other side of my fears.

But the most important thing I learned is that by planting a flag and loudly declaring my position, I made room. By declaring our position loudly and unequivocally, I used our privilege to create space for people who felt they had no space, and thus made room in a previously closed off space for them to be all they were made to be. And along the way, this also opened us up to far more opportunities and alliances than I ever imagined possible.

And I have never looked back.

It was my Independence Day.

NB: I don’t deserve a cookie for finally doing the right thing. If anything, I deserve condemnation for the years when I bowed and scraped for funds from people who, if they had known the truth, would not have funded us. By doing that, I centered the comfort of those with resources rather than vulnerable people, and I regret the years that happened, and have worked ever since to never do that again.

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