The Grinch and the Gospel
Not gonna lie; it’s been a rough year. With a president who promises the moon but delivers only lies, we have a problem. With Charlottesville and increasing hate-filled rhetoric that evangelical churches ignore instead of confront, we have a problem. With Congressional Republicans willing to sell their souls to wealthy donors, we have a problem. With a television news network serving as a right wing propaganda arm, we have a problem. On a national level, it has been a hard year.
It’s also been a tough year on a personal level. Since coming out as transgender, I have received thousands of blog comments, emails, messages, letters and phone calls whose words are carefully chosen to wound me as much as possible. Many have come from family and friends. While the correspondence slowed down for a couple of years, it escalated in 2017.
Part of the reason is because of the positive national media exposure I received this year. A second reason has been the anti-LGBTQ alliances of right wing evangelicals who have been empowered by this administration. I hear from those troubled souls several times a week. As far as I can discern, every single piece of hate mail I received in 2017 was sent by an evangelical. It is what it is.
From a public and professional perspective, 2017 has been a wonderul year. I have preached the Gospel and talked to audiences in 15 states about the realities of being transgender. Countless people thanked me for the difference I made in their lives by helping them understand their child, parent, friend, co-worker, neighbor or fellow church member. Every single day I am thanked for my courage, transparency, honesty, character and inspiration. Every. Single. Day.
During 2017 I had an incredibly satisfying three months as an interim pastor at Highlands Church in Denver. During the summer I was hired as Pastor of Preaching and Worship Ministries at Left Hand Community Church. I became the co-director of Open Launch, a new national church planting ministry. Cathy and I grew our joint counseling practice, RLT Pathways, providing therapy to an increasing number of people, whether or not they had the ability to pay.
A long feature article in the Sunday New York Times about my son, the church he leads, and our relationship, (Faith and Family in Transition) was a well-written and accurate look at the life of a family in which a member has transitioned. The positive response was life affirming.
During 2017 I was able to provide assistance to Denver Community Church, a large and dynamic congregation with two campuses in Denver. My work with DCC resulted in two feature appearances on Colorado Public Radio, which led to the public highlight of my year, an invitation to speak at TEDxMileHigh.
Speaking to a sold out crowd of 5200 at the Bellco Theater was quite an experience. It was the most responsive audience to which I have ever spoken. The TEDxMileHigh staff and my co-speakers were wonderful people who are making a huge difference in the world. The video of the event will be released sometime next year.
Across America I found plenty of good news in 2017. Amazing Americans rose to the challenge to stop the nonsense and bring change to our world. It began with the Women’s March in January, and continued with the courageous work of reliable media outlets like the Washington Post, the New York Times, and from a Christian perspective, Sojourners.
Great female leaders arose from within the post-evangelical world to boldly call for change, including Jen Hatmaker, Rachel Held Evans and Lisa Sharon Harper. The women leading She Is Called, an outreach of the Open Network, have been powerful in their proclamation of the Gospel. Carla Ewert, Jess Kast, Tina Schermer Sellers, Rachael McClair, Jennifer Fisher, Jen Jepsen and Kate Martin have led us in new directions of activism.
The truth is that as frustrating as it is to wake up to the headlines each morning, when I look at the cloud of witnesses fighting for racial justice, LGBTQ inclusion, gender equity, nuclear disarmament and other efforts to bring peace to our planet, I find hope.
Evil is being recognized and defeated. With every election that says no to self-serving bigotry, I find hope. With every speaker at every TED conference who shares a Big Idea that will make this world a better place, I find hope. With every abuser brought down by #MeToo, I find hope.
In the Millennials who are rejecting self-serving forms of capitalism and embracing concern for their neighbors, I find hope. With every friend who stands behind me and takes my call late in the evening, I find hope.
God is busy reconciling the creation to the Creator, through our hands, our feet, our bodies and our voices. We will not rest until that reconciliation has touched every single human.
May you and your family find peace this holiday season, and may hope rise in your soul.