THE MAGNITUDE of terrorism inflicted on Sept. 11 defy commentary. No
analysis is sufficient. The complexities are as tangled as the now crumbled
thin towers. As rescue workers search the rubble, "sweeping," "sustained," and
"patient" are words preparing us for a world that will never be the same.
As a lesbian and pastor of California's largest church serving the lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender community I think queer people view this new
world hoping it won't be like the old one -- a split nation of insiders and
In San Francisco, while we enjoy many American freedoms, we are nonetheless
denied many of the basic liberties that are suppose to accrue to all. This
stark reality, especially in the past few days, intensifies the dichotomy of
being American and gay. And it reinforces our commitment to insure that the
stories of our community are not lost as we tell and retell of victims and
heroes of last week's tragedy.
When the story is told of lines circling around blood banks, gay men and
bisexuals who have had sex with a man since 1977 need not hold out their arm
because of the long-standing Red Cross ban that refuses to take their blood.
Consequently, when citizens are asked to defend our country, the message to
us is "go back in the closet" -- don't tell or you won't be wanted.
We hear heart-wrenching stories of sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, wives and husbands. But partners are missing too.
Gay people were killed on the planes that crashed in the Pennsylvania field, in the World Trade Center, and at the Pentagon. We learn of two members of
our New York church -- a waiter in a restaurant and a police officer who are
both missing. Mark Bingham, a gay passenger has been credited by Sen. Barbara
Boxer with helping to divert light 93 away from Washington. David Charlebois,
a gay man, was the co-pilot on American Flight 77 that crashed into the
Pentagon. Graham Berkeley and Joe Ferguson, two gay men, lost their lives on
Fight 175 and Flight 77. On the scene, countless firefighters, police and
rescue workers were and are members of our community.
Now more than ever, it is important to tell stories about gay, lesbian,
bisexual and transgendered victims and heroes. But the only time "gay" was
mentioned these past weeks was by Jerry Falwell, whose obscene thinking blamed
much of the mayhem on what he called God's revenge against us.
Insider, outsider; it is especially important to remember who we are at
this time. It may help us be able to see more clearly. We may, like Barbara
Lee, be a lone dissenting voice.
When the rhetoric heats up, and the words fly, "Evil must be destroyed,
evil must be wiped out," we remember those very words have been used against
us. When we see the media present Palestinians as dancing and cheering in the
streets, we remember our pride parade and the media's misrepresentation of us.
Terrorism is evil and evil goes on in the world all the time. In covert and
cowardly ways, evil is perpetrated by governments and by groups and by
individuals. Evil is done routinely in the name of greed, gain and God.
This week we came face to face with evil on our own soil but it it was not
an isolated event. Queer people are no strangers to religious hatred or to
Earlier this month, meeting with religious leaders, a Muslim brother said,
"I have been physically sick to think . . . that anybody could attribute (this
act of terror) to Islam, or that it would be done in the name of Islam." At
that moment I connected to him because I know of feeling utterly ashamed for
horrific acts that are done in the name of the Christianity.
Still, we display the American flag in our sanctuary because it holds the
lives that have been given this week -- especially the fire, police and rescue
personnel killed in the line of duty.
But the flag does not mean God and country are one. Too often when God is
equated with a gender, race or nation injustice and oppression result.
Because it requires absolute devotion, unexamined nationalism becomes
fundamentalism. As Americans, with so many identities, we must ask what our
faith identity says to us. It's not as simple as "love your enemy" and "turn
the other cheek."
Yet, as a faith community, as a church, we are called to be peacemakers and
nonviolent, to protect the innocent and to resist evil. But it's folly to
think justice equals retaliation. The scriptures teach us the effect of
justice is peace for all.
So as people of faith, we ask "how did we get to today?" Are we defined by
armaments, missiles, intelligence, money, power or something else? Our faith
answers simply: not let hate reign in our hearts and never become what we
Rev. Dr. G. Penny Nixon is senior pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco.
©2001 San Francisco Chronicle