You might have noticed that I got a nice e mail message from someone after I posted about Cliven Bundy yesterday (I shared it after the post). The follow-up message I received pretty much made my day–and reminded me of the wonderful serendipity of the Internet, which can still, I think, be as much a force for bringing people together as it is for spreading hatred and nastiness. I owe Cliven Bundy a debt of thanks for the introduction.
“I am an 80 year old African American United Methodist Church retired clergyman,” Reverend Gil Caldwell told me, “who was active in the Civil Rights Movement. I was intrigued when I saw on your website, KABBALAH, Beliefnet Guide to Kabbalah. You are the author? Wow!…I don’t have the book near me, but I beieve it was Rabbi Kushner’s definition of Mysticism that I resonated to, and have shared with others.”
His “wow” is very much reciprocated. My little Kabbalah book came and went without making too many waves, but it’s so nice to find out that it made an impression on someone.
And not just anyone.
Reverend Caldwell is a partner at the Truth in Progress website and is the co-author of a book it published, Truth in Progress: Letters in Mixed Company. He was featured a few days ago on the Erasing 76 Crimes blog, where he endorsed and amplified South African Justice Edwin Cameron’s plea for an end to LGBT discrimination in Africa. I quote his words below:
I respond with appreciation for Justice Cameron’s words for the following reasons:
1. I am a veteran “foot soldier” in the American Civil Rights Movement that Martin Luther King led. He and I are graduates of Boston University School of Theology where I met him in 1958.
2. I attended the 1963 March on Washington where Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, participated in “Mississippi Freedom Summer” when three young civil rights volunteers were killed, and I marched in the Selma to Montgomery March after the infamous “Bloody Sunday.”
3. I am an African-American who made my first trip to Africa in 1971 believing that Africa was the “Motherland” of those of us who represented the African Diaspora in America.
4. East Africa is viewed as the “Motherland” of all human beings and because of that I have said over and over again, all human beings are “An African People.”
It is with a sense of deep agony that I read of the mistreatment of LGBT persons in some of the nations of Africa. And, my prayer is that what Justice Cameron describes as a “groundswell of hate” will soon be ended. My reasons:
1. Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” How strange, peculiar and tragic it is that African nations that have known the injustices of colonialism that prompted successful independence struggles are now engaging in acts of injustice directed at persons because of their homosexual orientation and practice. This contradicts the words that were spoken to justify the struggles for African Independence.
2. We who are Christians have just completed our observances and celebrations of Easter. We celebrated the life, mission and ministry of Jesus Christ who lived and died on behalf of ALL of God’s children. The Scriptures tell us of how Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Today, Jesus must be weeping over those nations in Africa where God-created and loved people are being persecuted because of their sexual orientation. Christians who engage in this persecution, or who are silent as it takes place, diminish the power of the Resurrection that we celebrated on Easter!
3. My wife and I are the grandparents of one grandchild, who is 9 years old. We do not know what her sexual orientation will be, but regardless of what it might be, how can we explain to her the wave of hatred that Justice Cameron describes?
4. When I first traveled to Africa in 1971 (Tanzania), I rejoiced in the sense of respect, community, togetherness and family that I experienced there. I realized that the poverty that exists in the USA represented plenty when compared to the poverty that exists in Africa. I came back to the USA and shared with my Black congregation that I saw hope and love and commitment in Africa, despite the poverty, that should inspire us amidst the poverty of our inner cities. But, what can I say to African-American Churches about the legally sanctioned hatred against gays in some African nations that is taking place today?
5. We in the African-American community in the USA sing a song that is titled; “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Some describe it as our National Anthem because it describes the journey of African-Americans in the USA with these words: “We have come over a way that with tears has been watered; we have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered.”
The journey of Africans in Africa or Africans in America has not been an easy journey. Why then would Africans in Africa, or African-Americans, mistreat persons because of their sexual orientation in some of the ways we were once treated because of our race?
– The Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell
Retired United Methodist Minister
Co-Partner in Truth in Progress and
A Board Member of PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)
One of the African-American clergymen in the film “Love Heals Homophobia”
Asbury Park, New Jersey, U.S.A.