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Forgiving Smothermon; praying for those his words affect

Lopez leading a protest

Lopez, shown here in a report from KOAT-TV in Albuquerque, helped lead a protest in front of Legacy Church earlier this month in response to comments Pastor Steve Smothermon made to NMPolitics.net. “…we are taking all of that hate that that man has put out, and we are gonna send as much love as God calls us to, to send back on him,” Lopez was quoted by KOAT as saying.

I’ve already forgiven Legacy Church Pastor Steve Smothermon for comments he made to NMPolitics.net and preached from the pulpit. I pray for him, but, more importantly, I pray for those his words affect.

Jesse Lopez

Jesse Lopez

It is an essential element of Americanism, and humankind; we show love, respect and equality to one another. But laid in the fabric of American history lies the truth behind what has not always been so American.

History tells us Native Americans had their land taken away, forced to follow Christianity, learn English, and learn the way of the “White Man.” Africans were brought to the United States to become slaves for the wealthy elite of white society. Women could not vote, much less run for office. The list goes on from one minority group to another.

One compelling truth that binds each of these struggles together is that Christianity played a key role in the lack of fast movement toward equality. This is our history, the unfortunate truth of our country. Not all Christians showed hate, but many did.

It took people dying, marches and protests, but in the end each group has reached a “point” of equality. We learned that separate-but-equal does not work, being a woman makes you no less than a man, and the color of one’s skin has nothing to do with one’s integrity.

The LGBT movement’s struggle

As we have entered the 21 Century, the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender movement is embarking on its own struggle, one where Christianity, yet again, is at the center. People are dying, countries are divided, and families are being torn apart. Did we fail to learn anything from history?

In brief, here is a GLBT historical perspective about which many of you may not be aware:


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  • A pink triangle arm band was given to homosexuals in World War 2; they, like so many others, died at the hands of Nazis.
  • In the 1960s, homosexuality was declared a psychological disorder and, to this day, shock treatment is one method used to “prevent” homosexual behavior.
  • Up until 2011, when President Obama repealed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, gays and lesbians could not serve in the military.
  • To this day countries like Iran have laws that put to death gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals. We see the Westboro Baptist Church protesting at military men’s and women’s funeral services, at parades, and at political rallies, holding signs that read “God Hates Fags.”

When does the hate end? When can society view individuals as people, and the color of their skin, their national origin and their sexual preference as things that do not matter? When will the killing, suicides, bullying, belittling and 2nd-class citizenship because you are gay go away?

When will pastors and priests realize it’s not ok to preach hate from the pulpit and insert that same hate into politics? You don’t have to believe in Jesus Christ to know the Bible says the greatest of all things is to love, right?

A Christian and gay

Recently I found myself in a self-battle. As a Christian I am called to be Christ-like. I have lived my life always having my own personal relationship with Jesus Christ; whenever under attack for being gay it was Jesus Christ I went too, not the church. I read my Bible attend church services and truly try to live a good, ethical, moral life.

I learned a long time ago that, when dealing with my own internal battles, I have two options. One, I can sit quietly, or, two, I can put the “Armor of God” on and help bring light to a world that is often dark. When Legacy Church Pastor Steve Smothermon made bold remarks to NMPolitics.net that criticized Governor Martinez’s appointment of openly gay PRC Commissioner Doug Howe, Pastor Smothermon engaged in a conversation and then latter preached these words at the pulpit.

“With a governor who looked me in the eye personally and said she’s socially conservative, she believes that marriage is between one man and one woman, who said she wouldn’t espouse the homosexual agenda, I think this goes against that,” Smothermon told NMPolitics.net. “… These aren’t the people we voted for you to appoint. We voted for you to appoint people who think like we do.”

In those words, my battle began. Do I call upon the community to rally in the name of anger, hate or love? I ran into Father Rusty Smith that day, explained to him my concern, and he said “Jesse, the Bible and love is not a weapon or tool of hate. If you do a rally, do it in the name of love. That is what Christ calls us to do.”

It made sense to me. We moved forward, and began the conversation about the difference between love and hate, tolerance and in-tolerance, lawful and unlawful, sinful and un-sinful, and so on. More so, it has sparked a conversation about what churches can morally, legally and ethically do.

It’s time to be Christ-like

Did Pastor Smothermon want Governor Martinez to discriminate against a man for being gay, to break the law and not appoint him to the PRC? Well, with a statement that reads “espouse the homosexual agenda,” I am lead to only one conclusion: yes.

And what about the other politicians that have sought his advice, asked to speak to his congregation, or are attendees; do they feel the same way? What can we expect from individuals like Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston, City Councilor Dan Lewis, and so on? Are we to assume they too hold the same beliefs?

Pastor Smothermon says he will not apologize for his or Legacy Churches’ stances. So until politicians like Houston and Lewis answer, one can only assume and speculate they agree.

Pastor Smothermon does not need to apologize. I have already forgiven him. I pray for him, but more importantly I pray for those his words affect.

The kids that are bullied on the playground because Pastor Smothermon says being gay is wrong. The individual that continues to seek God’s love but can’t find it because Pastor Smothermon says there is no love, and in essence gays should not hold any job.

The time has come to claim our humanity and be human, be Christ-like and show love.

I forgive.

Lopez is president-emeritus of Albuquerque Pride, Inc., and a member of Get Equal New Mexico.

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12 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.

  1. Artiofab, right.  It is a thorny problem dealing with intolerance.  I just have always held that assimilation and integration of the persecuted group would help to heal as surely the rational result would be recognition of common humanity.  Call me an idealist.
     

  2. qofdisks, your usage of the word “infiltrate” made me think you meant covert action. Since that’s not what you meant, then part of my reaction is no longer valid.

    If openly homosexual individuals want to overtly attend a church that openly proclaims hateful messages, then that could be one way of trying to lessen the hatred. It’s not the usual route: there are churches that don’t proclaim hate, and supporting them financially is what most homosexual religious people end up doing when/if they’ve had enough hate from their usual pulpit.

    In this case, it doesn’t sound like Mr. Lopez ever attended Legacy Church or had to hear Pastor Steve Smothermon use hateful language. If he and other members of Get Equal New Mexico and Albuquerque Pride, Inc. could start up a dialogue with the church or the pastor, that might be a better way of dealing with the hate then attending and being insulted. I mean if Smothermon had any ability to be shamed about his words he would have apologized by now, right?

  3. Good points bloggers.
    I failed to realize that the safety of Christian Gays was at risk.  That they would be assaulted by haters in the church is most certainly plausible.

    I was not proposing that Gay be dishonest in any way but to befriend and charm and make friends especially to the more open minded Christian youth.  

    Again, they could be putting themselves at risk of assault.  It is horrible to consider but, there is undeniable history to the fact that Gays are not safe even if they do love God.

  4. artiofab – I must do so also. I think qofdisks is advocating solutions that would put gays and lesbians at great risk. I also think that the citizenry who is not gay or lesbian really quite doesn’t understand…or refuses to acknowledge for whatever reason…how dangerous it is to be gay or lesbian in the United States. Face it everyone, pursuit of happiness (a right) is being denied daily in the USA in full site of television cameras, courts of law and the general public on national television. Bigotry, in fact, is still being taught everyday.

  5. qofdisks, I gotta comment on your comment.
    If homosexuals infiltrate the  church then, the people would see that they are just human beings like themselves.

    Part of me thinks this is a great idea: nothing helps break down xenophobic barriers like actually meeting people who are part of the despised other and realizing that they are people too.
    However, people who think that homosexuality is evil are probably not going to change their mind when they find out that homosexual parishioners have used false witness to break into their churches. While people do have a right to attend public church services of any church, church groups, especially xenophobic ones, are not so big on being invaded by others, and the invasion might have the opposite effect of what you intend.
    Putting undercover agents into an organization that already feels attacked is most likely to act as positive, not negative, feedback.

    When they deny membership, call the ACLU.
    Churches are private organizations, they can choose their membership however they want.

  6. Anger arises from fear, and fear from ignorance.  I wonder hos many dwell in fear of being discovered in those families that espouse hatred of GLBTQ.  People say we choise to be Gay.  Really?  Did i choose to be kicked out of home, abused, beaten and ostracised?  Only a lunatic would choose that path. Faith asks us to move ever higher.  Hate is not Heavenly.  God is not hate.  And these people who speak for God are guilty of hubris.  I wonder how many dwell under therir roofs in fear?  I eonder how many times they have been offered a helping hand by those they profess to hate?  New Medico is one if the most accepting and tolerant places i have ever been to.  But even in paradise you get a few rotten apples.

  7. No, no, no.
    The homosexuals need to attend the church not hold protests.  Rallying in from of the church will make the haters just dig in their heels.  Protests just give them a direction to point and say, “See, Satan is at our door.”  
    If homosexuals infiltrate the  church then, the people would see that they are just human beings like themselves.  Some might even become friends.  When they disagree, just smile and say, God loves me and you just the way he made us or some placating words like that.  Sit publicly in the front row.  Let the fact that there is a homosexual contingent in the church slowly seep in by osmosis over the months.  In the meantime, make friends, attend the social clubs including the singles and youth groups.  Make an example of yourselves to shine a light in the world.  Make the members of the congregation love you personally as individuals.
    Then, let the internal conflict within the church take it’s toll.  See if they bodily throw you out Sunday morning.  When they deny membership, call the ACLU.  Recruit the more open minded Christian youth.
    I know, it would be harder than having a rally and would be hard to stomach.  Perhaps you Christian gays can do it in shifts so you only have to rub elbows with the haters say once or twice a month. 
    Integrating, even in the churches, is going to painful and hard but, that is the long term path. We are already seeing it in the schools  and starting in the work place and the military is next.  Just be…everywhere.
    Homosexuals are people too and some of them are pretty cool. 

  8. Extremely well said Mr. Lopez, you obviously know true faith and forgiveness as well as what humanity is all about, pity so many churches do not.  But EW-aif, all the loyal base of politicians, the true partisans, always want those they work hard to elect and push their agendas to always appoint those that “think like we (they) do”.  That is the whole point of partisan politics, left or right, and the problem this country cannot seem to solve and it just gets worse.  But this is nothing new or unusual, just sad for us as citizens who wish to seek the best for all of us.

  9. Mr. Lopez asks a few potentially rhetorical questions which I think are worth trying to find answers to.
    When does the hate end? When can society view individuals as people, and the color of their skin, their national origin and their sexual preference as things that do not matter? When will the killing, suicides, bullying, belittling and 2nd-class citizenship because you are gay go away? When will pastors and priests realize it’s not ok to preach hate from the pulpit and insert that same hate into politics?
    The simple answer to all of these questions is “when the haters die”. Xenophobia, in all its forms, is something that is transmitted culturally from one generation to another in order to serve (what are most of the time) socially conservative sociopolitical impulses. Heterosexism will not go away until the last people that were preached it as children die off. Since children now are still being preached a gospel of hate, heterosexism will be around for at least their entire lives, if not their childrens’.

    The only sign of progress is that places like Legacy Church are only capable of making heterosexist comments in little doses. Smothermon can’t demand the public execution of Howe that the Old Testament demands, so he instead has to employ dog-whistle tactics and mention the “homosexual agenda”, a term which means absolutely nothing but which terrifies heterosexists who are apt to believe ludicrous things.

    In the meantime, Legacy Church has the constitutional right to preach whatever it wants to. Legacy Church’s attendees have the right to listen to whatever garbage they want to. I do think it’s a good idea to call up Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston, City Councilor Dan Lewis, and other politicians who have stepped foot in Legacy Church and see if they approve of Legacy Church’s hateful message, and highly encourage anyone interested in this matter to do so.

  10. I think it is very revealing that Smothermon wants Martinez to appoint only those who “think like we do.”  The basis of his rhetoric is fear.  He fears, deep in his heart, that he is NOT following God’s path.  And he thinks that somehow money and/or political power prove that “God is on his side.”  He doesn’t have the courage to seek to be on God’s side instead.
     
    I strongly recommend reading the book of Matthew, chapters 5 through 7;  they contain the Sermon on the Mount, one of the key passages in the Bible, and and (IMHO) the key to Jesus’ message.
     
    There you will find the passage on false prophets, beginning with Mt 7:15 and ending with Mt 7:22-23: 
     
    “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?  and in thy name have cast out devils?  and in thy name done many wonderful works?
     
    “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you:  depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
     

  11. I find it ironic how PRC this entire time had a person working in there that stole, took drugs and broke the law left and right.  Nothing was said about that from either the public or any churches.  This man was totally unethical along with many others in the state government.  But a gentleman that comes in with credentials for the position is rediculed by a church because he is gay.  What people do in the privacy of their bedroom is their business.  If being gay is a sin then that is between them and God we are not to judge.  Governor Martinez may believe that marriage is between a man and a woman (and that’s okay to believe that it’s her choice) but she picked who she thought was the best for the job and chose the right person.  Good luck to him, and to the church you need to open up the Bible and learn more about what Jesus was all about, their is something into about “taking the plank out of your own eyes”, 

  12. Mr. Lopez, your column shows your Christianity is real and based on Jesus Christ’s teaching. Thank you for writing. I come from a large family. In that family are:  a retired Army nurse who has hidden her orientation all her life; two nephews who are gay, one who served in the Navy and about whom I worried when DADT was the rule and the other who married young and has two beautiful daughters with whom he has a loving relationship. I firmly believe sexual orientation is 99% the result of biology. Acceptance, acceptance, acceptance. My dear brother said it well about his son:  “Everyone needs someone to love.” His son and partner are married and having a wonderful life together.

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