The last week or so, the news about the engagement between faith and equality in Tennessee presents rich opportunities for reflection and action.
McMinnville stoning story: The most notable example has been the ongoing discussion of a McMinnville minister's use of the passage in Leviticus about stoning LGBT people. What did we learn? Responding to hateful rhetoric CAN transform the situation. It doesn't always, but in this case it did. The national and local media spotlight resulted in something closer to a real conversation than the various sides in the culture war usually have. I admit I was surprised and pleased when the minister called me. We knew the minute the conversation began that we wouldn't achieve full agreement, but we ended at a different place. And one of those places was the minister admitting that hateful rhetoric is connected to violence.
The example points to a variety of approaches for addressing anti-equality religious rhetoric. Media engagement plays a role. Theological reflection plays a role. Highlighting the violence experienced by LGBT people plays a role. But what are we missing?
Tennessee, a laboratory of religion and equality issues: Given the persistence of fundamentalism and anti-equality religious rhetoric in states like Tennessee and the influence of that rhetoric on politics, we are a living lab and we need to be conducting experiments to transform the situation. And when you experiment, you won't always get it right.
What we can't do is rely on some magic set of talking points generated at the national level and plop them down here. We need messages and action that fit particular situations in Tennessee communities.
We need ideas: So we need to open the lab. We need some trial and error, observation and adaptation. And we need to be open to outrageous ideas and small, steady plans alike. Whether it be equality tent revivals or tracts at truck stops, we need to look at a diversity of solutions because no one approach is likely to do it all.
But it is an imperative because we have to address this critical piece in our safety and well being in Tennessee. What are your ideas?