According to a report in yesterday's Juneau Empire, there is going to be a prayer rally in Juneau today, brought to us by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Franklin Graham, president/CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and son of televangelist Billy Graham, is traveling to every state capital in the U.S. in a tour bus because he "believe[s] that the country is in a lot of trouble and the only answer to the problems we're facing would be to call the church back to God and to prayer."
One of this organization's platforms is that homosexuality and transgender identity are "sinful," that they can be prayed away, and that people "don't have to live like that anymore." That they can be "changed," "set free," and "forgiven."
The rally comes at a time when the Juneau assembly is considering an LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance supported by the vast majority of Juneauites. A spokesperson for a Juneau LGBTQ association quoted in the Empire article doesn't have a problem with the rally or the organization sponsoring it, because (and I'm paraphrasing slightly here) everyone has the right to peacefully express their opinions as long as folks remain respectful of each other and are not trying to make our community less understanding, compassionate, or diverse.
Given that, I'll express my own opinion on this topic, and I'll try to do it in a way that's rational and respectful, as opposed to angry and sarcastic, which is my usual M.O.
Let's take the organizers and participants involved in this rally at their word: that basically they're concerned for the future of America and are genuinely worried for the souls of LGBTQ people; that their prayers are well-intended, and that they feel marginalized themselves.
Let's also agree for this purpose that it's unproductive and unfair to label this position on sexual orientation and gender identity as bigotry.
Let's also take it as an inviolate constitutional principle of American civics that the organizers and participants in this rally have the right to express and protect their own religious beliefs.
There's one problem though, and unfortunately it's a pretty big one.
The problem is that no matter what you call it, the public propagation and promotion of this particular position--that homosexuality and transgender identity are sinful and can and should be fixed--has led to the horrific marginalization, abuse, and deaths of many Americans.
It's a fact that LGBTQ people have higher rates of murder, suicide, and substance abuse directly attributable not necessarily exclusively to God's wrath, but to human persecution based on nothing other than who they fundamentally are as human beings, whether they "choose" to "fix" that or not.
It's a fact that religion has been--and continues to be--used as a cudgel to justify that persecution, shame and antagonize LGBTQ people, and make them extremely unsafe in public and sometimes in their very own homes. And that this cudgel becomes that much more dangerous and insidious when it's presented, packaged, and promoted as a salve.
It's a fact that religion was used in this very same way not so long ago to justify slavery, segregation, and racially "pure" marriage in this country, for many of the same reasons and with much the same language and logic applied to LGBTQ people today, with similar violent and often fatal results, in ways that would be unthinkable (not to mention illegal) in 2016.
It's also a fact that the Bible advocates love, peace, and compassion certainly as much (and arguably more) than it advocates "fixing" anyone's sexuality or gender identity. The Bible might well be "a book of good news," as one of the rally's organizers told the Empire, but the way his organization chooses to publicly interpret the Bible is arguably pretty bad news for LGBTQ people.
So public prayers that are well-intended but have the indirect consequence of propagating hatred and violence against fellow human beings are, just maybe, something about which religious leaders should perhaps think more carefully, and reconsider as truly being part of God's work.
Photo: Juneau Empire (Billy Graham Evangelistic Association)