We Are A Very Serious Church

I am the Pastor of Preaching and Worship at Left Hand Church in Longmont, Colorado.  As you can see from the picture above, I am a force to be reckoned with.  Therefore, church members would never think of photoshopping a dressed-up dog into a picture of me preaching, and certainly would refuse to do so if it had been suggested by one of my co-pastors.  They know I am serious and in control, always, without fail. I never cry when I’m doing the communion meditation.  I’m as dispassionate and dissociated as a fundamentalist church elder.  After all, it’s just bread and grape juice.

At Left Hand Church, we do everything decently and in order.  Whenever Jen Jepsen, our Pastor of Reconciling Ministries, begins our services with a welcome, she never gets her words tangled.  Upon choking up with emotion, she would never say, “I’m not crying.  You’re crying.”  No, Jen is a professional through and through, always composed, reserved, serious.

Our Pastor of Executive Ministries, Aaron Bailey, would never roll his eyes when the Pastor of Preaching and Worship starts uttering curse words because she can’t figure out how to navigate through Slack or Google Docs.  No, Aaron always treats her with the utmost respect, because as I said before, she is a force to be reckoned with.  And oh yeah, she would never use curse words, ever, in any circumstance, and certainly not during a church service when one child is still in the auditorium.  She is a professional.

Our Leadership Council operates quickly and efficiently, even if one or two people are left behind.  If 10 people quickly reach a conclusion, you’d never find the 11th saying, “But I’m not sure we’ve thought about this one thing…”  And you would certainly never see the group reengage the conversation and after a long and heartfelt talk, reverse their perspective to agree with the 11th member.  No, they are more interested in getting stuff done fast, like a good board should.

And then there are those who do our communion meditations each week.  They are, above all, people who refuse to think on their own, and only repeat the words spoken by real Christians, like Southern Baptist executives and members of Trump’s spiritual advisory team.  They begin their meditations with phrases like, “God said it; I believe it; that settles it for me.”  They would never say things like, “Jesus welcomed everyone to the table, even the dumb ones, the ones who were clueless, and yeah, that funky one.”

Yessiree, we are a serious church, with serious pastors, serious leadership council members, and serious attendees.  Only serious Christians, who have never doubted the existence of God, come to our services.  We only have attendees who know exactly how much God dislikes LGBTQ people, refugees and immigrants.  Our members know it’s not how you live; it’s what doctrines you believe.  A hallmark of a Left Hand attendee is making sure you are good and terrified of hell.  If you say, “God is love,” our members know how to respond.  We say, “Yeah, but how can you be sure.”  We know to be suspicious of the notion God loves everyone, just as they are.

Yep, at Left Hand Church, we’ve got our shit  stuff together.  So you’ll never see a picture of an proud dog in a Cookie Monster costume photoshopped onto the stage of our auditorium behind our incredibly gifted Pastor of Preaching and Worship.  And it would never have been photoshopped there by the newest member of our Leadership Council.  Not ever.

And isn’t that the outfit the pastor wore at her TEDxMileHigh talk?  No, our pastor would never wear the same thing twice.  Because above all else, Left Hand is a very serious church.

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Look What Slipped By The News Media!

Over the past month I have become frightened, first by the increasingly racially-tinged and divisive rhetoric coming from the White House, and then by a decision made by the Justice Department last Wednesday.

With Trump’s pronouncements coming at a dizzying pace, many quickly forgot that a few Sundays ago the New York Times reported that the current administration was preparing to pronounce that gender is determined at birth, and all accommodations for transgender people should be ended. Last Wednesday the threat became a reality when  the Justice Department took the first step, informing its employees they were no longer to protect the rights of transgender people on issues related to housing and employment.

That news got lost in the pre-election madness.  The Justice Department’s instruction was not just one more crazy idea tossed to the electorate by an unhinged president. It was the first step of a calculated decision to eradicate the transgender population, perpetrated by the Justice Department of the United States of America.

Now, let’s suppose the Robert Mueller investigation does find collusion or obstruction of justice, and Donald Trump is impeached and convicted.  That would not change the discourse on transgender people. Mike Pence is even more dangerous to the LGBTQ population than Donald Trump.  He is every bit as theologically conservative and morally self-righteous as Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  He would not hesitate to issue executive order after executive order to deny the basic civil rights of transgender people.

I am ashamed about how little I cared about civil rights before I transitioned.  I had all of the “right positions,” but outside of voting, I didn’t do much. I did not write my Congressmen or Senators.  I did not participate in demonstrations.  I did not testify against bills designed to limit civil rights. I was comfortable.  Now I know better.

Regardless of how today’s election turns out, I will remain frightened.  And as bad as it is for me, it is ten times worse for transgender women of color and transgender children, whose vulnerability is exponentially greater than mine.

Eight-four percent of evangelicals believe gender is determined at birth, and there are only two genders.  Sixty-one percent of evangelicals feel the culture has gone too far in accommodating transgender people.  Yet only one in four evangelicals actually knows someone who is transgender.  They have a strong opinion about a population they do not even know.  We have seen that kind of prejudice far too often in American history.  From Irish immigrants to Blacks to refugees from Central America, we reject those about whom we know next to nothing.

When I transitioned, I believed if people realized transgender individuals are as healthy as the population at large, we would be accepted.  The truth would set us free.  I was naïve. A lot of people do not care about the truth.  They care about power.

I am the enemy of those in power.  I am not deserving of compassion, understanding, or acceptance.  I cannot believe my sense of entitlement was so great that it took this long for me to realize just how much peril I am in.

Transgender people only have rights in 21 states.  With a federal government that wants to erase us from existence, we are only as protected as the state in which we live.  I am fortunate to live in a state that protects my rights.  Most transgender people do not.

These are trying times.  The hate and division are the worst I have seen.  I am frightened.  And even if today yields an election result in which one party is no longer in control of both houses of Congress, it will not change the fact that this administration would like to strike me from the face of the earth.

Please, write your Congressmen and Senators and ask them to speak out against the plans of the Justice Department to erase transgender people.  Our lives depend on it.