'Angry Queers' Break Stained-Glass Window

There is an Internet story gone viral about "Angry Queers" breaking historic stained-glass windows in the old Mars Hill Church in Portland, Oregon. In all the stories I can find no verifiable evidence that "queers" did it. Eye witnesses claim that black-hooded youth were throwing rocks at the windows. Fox News (an objective, truth gathering media outlet to be sure) allegedly received a phone call and a note signed by a group calling itself "Angry Queers" taking credit for the attack.

Whatever happened that dark night, April 24, 2012, it is possible that a handful of "queers" broke the stained-glass windows to protest the anti-gay rhetoric of Mark Driscoll, the church's founder. I don't condone vandalism, but who could blame them for their anger? We've been victimized by the Christian right for more than half a century. Fortunately, however, during all that time there are almost zero acts of violence reported by queer people against our oppressors.

As the co-founder of Soulforce I am committed to relentless nonviolent resistance; however, I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to commit violent acts myself against the Fred Phelps of this world who thank God for dead American soldiers and sing praises to those who murdered Matthew Shepard. Why don't I give in to violence during those moments when my patience runs thin and my anger surges? Am I a coward? Do LGBT people have this shiny nonviolence record because we're afraid to fight back? Is it time for nonviolent protests to end and time for violence to begin?

At least the "Angry Queers" did something. But should we follow their example, put on hoods, pick up rocks, and break stained-glass windows? When that doesn't work should we assassinate a really offensive leader of the Christian right? Should we strap on bombs and blow up pastors and churches that make our lives miserable? To answer the question, just ask yourself: Did those "Angry Queers" do us any good? Did their act of violence advance our cause, win hearts and minds, or lead us one step closer to full acceptance and equality? No.

The nation's media, especially the conservative Christian press, repeat the story of "angry queers" attacking churches. Leaders of the Christian right point at the broken glass and say "I told you so." True or false what happened on Mars Hill gives credibility to their lie that we are a threat to the nation and to the church, the very lie that made "Angry Queers" angry. Whoever broke those windows may have felt good when they rushed home, took off their hoods and celebrated with a six pack, but at this very moment just when the scales of justice are beginning to tip in our direction, they dumped rocks and broken glass into the scale of injustice and leave the rest of us to clean up the mess.

Here's the good news: Relentless nonviolent resistance began when Logan Lynn from Portland's Q Center and Nathan Meckley, our MCC pastor in Portland, rushed to Mars Hill to help sweep up the shattered glass. Now almost every month Logan, Nathan and six others are meeting with Mars Hill pastor Tim Smith and several of his people to discuss their differences. Something wonderful might come of that.

However amicable conversations and loving acts of solidarity may not be enough to stop the lies. When the meetings end, what decision will our allies in Portland have to make if Mars Hill's founder, Mark Driscoll, continues his antigay rhetoric on his radio and TV broadcasts and on the 100,000 podcasts downloaded weekly by his people in Seattle, Portland and across the U.S. Logan, Nathan and our Oregonian friends and allies will have to decide. Do we throw up our hands and walk away or do we act?

If we choose to act, the rules of relentless nonviolent resistance provide guidelines for our action. Collect samples of Pastor Driscoll's rhetoric. Build an airtight case against it. Gather testimonials that illustrate the tragic consequences of his false teachings in the families of his 7,500 member church. Recruit and train volunteers in nonviolence. Alert the media. Surround the church week after week with silent vigils, nonviolent protests and colorful rallies until our story also goes viral. We are on the defensive now. Then Pastor Driscoll will face the kind of shame we are facing. And if after all our efforts he still does not see the truth and still does not confess his sins against us, always remember we don't stand for truth and justice for his sake but for our own.

I can't resist the irony that "Angry Queer" violence happened on Mars Hill, in Portland, a fundamentalist Christian church, but in ancient times the rock near the Acropolis in Athens named after the Roman god of war. More than 2,000 years ago, when the apostle Paul spotted a shrine on Mars Hill "to the unknown god" he staged his own nonviolent protest against the violent gods of Greece and Rome. With his friends watching in shock and awe, Paul climbed up the rock, shouted the crowd into silence and began to describe the God he had discovered in the life and teachings of Jesus, a God of peace not war, a God of love not hate.

Here's my fantasy. Let Mars Hill in Portland become a symbol, not of "Angry Gays" breaking stained-glass windows but of nonviolent gays who are also angry but refuse to be violent in the face of Pastor Driscoll's toxic rhetoric. Let's make Mars Hill a symbol of a people committed to nonviolence who will go on resisting the lies relentlessly until truth prevails and the nation grants us all the rights and protections we deserve.