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The Serpent and the Dove: A Spiritual and Political Formation of Nonviolence and Direct Action in the LGBTQI Community

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Abstract

Soulforce has, since our start in 1998, practiced what we call relentless, nonviolent resistance in our organizing to end the religious and political oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) people. Starting out in the 1990s, we analyzed the powerful sources driving the most toxic and violent messages against LGBTQI people, and the data overwhelmingly at that time pointed to Christian broadcasters like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and global Christian denominations like the United Methodist Church and the Catholic Church as the architects, funders, and promoters of the gravest physical and spiritual violence launched against the LGBTQI community. The faces and structures have changed since our early days, but the operating premise remains the same: Christianity co-opted by systems like white supremacy, capitalism, and colonization to advance a racial, economic, and patriarchal agenda. This is an ideological system Soulforce defines as Christian Supremacy.

Addressing Christian Supremacy and practicing relentless, nonviolent resistance form the bookends of our theory of change in pursuit of collective liberation for LGBTQI and all who are targeted by weaponized Christianity.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Haven Herrin and D.J. Hudson, Nice Will Not Save Us, Vol. I (Abilene, TX: Soulforce, 2019), paragraph 3. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  2. 2.

    Ibid, paragraph 7. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  3. 3.

    Ibid, paragraph 93. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  4. 4.

    Ibid, paragraph 94. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  5. 5.

    Haven Herrin and D.J. Hudson, Nice Will Not Save Us, Vol. II (Abilene, TX: Soulforce, 2019), paragraph 22. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  6. 6.

    The website Waging Nonviolence (www.wagingnonviolence.org) offers a trove of biographies and commentary on nonviolent activism.

  7. 7.

    Herrin and Hudson, Nice Will Not Save Us, Vol. II, paragraph 80. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  8. 8.

    Eunice Fisher. Haven Herrin and D.J. Hudson, Nice Will Not Save Us, Vol. II, paragraph 64. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  9. 9.

    Mel White and Gary Nixon are the Founders of Soulforce. The “Return to Lynchburg” direct action (October 25–27, 2002) included a blessing of the Founders’ new home across the street from Jerry Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church, a vigil in front of Thomas Road Baptist Church, and a same-sex marriage celebration.

  10. 10.

    Jim Best. Herrin and Hudson, Nice Will Not Save Us, Vol. II, paragraph 65. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  11. 11.

    As a 501(c)3, we do not condone illegal activity. As a matter of historical record, we use Eunice Fisher’s story to demonstrate the breadth of possible direct actions and encourage options that do not incite police engagement.

  12. 12.

    Bill Carpenter. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  13. 13.

    Herrin and Hudson, Nice Will Not Save Us, Vol. I, paragraph 77. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  14. 14.

    Caitlyn Stout. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  15. 15.

    Herrin and Hudson, Nice Will Not Save Us, Vol. I, paragraph 83. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  16. 16.

    Herrin and Hudson, Nice Will Not Save Us, Vol. II, paragraph 72. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  17. 17.

    Affirmation is an organization for United Methodist Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer concerns. www.umaffirm.org

  18. 18.

    Love Prevails is an organization of LGBTQI and allied United Methodists that launched out of the organizing around the pastoral trial of Rev. Amy DeLong. They have an orientation toward direct action, so Soulforce and Love Prevails have a long history of affinity and partnership. (https://loveprevailsumc.com/)

  19. 19.

    Dr. Julie Todd, On Soulforce (2016). Reprinted with permission from the author

  20. 20.

    Kara Speltz is a founding member of Soulforce and served on the staff for many years.

  21. 21.

    Mike Perez’s statement on the Soulforce civil disobedience during the meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, DC (November 10–14, 2002). This action led to the “Trial of the DC Three” in January 2003. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  22. 22.

    Mel White, Soulforce: 1999–2006 (Austin, TX: Soulforce, 2006), 5. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  23. 23.

    Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” in 1989. In her words, “Intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects. It’s not simply that there’s a race problem here, a gender problem here, and a class or LBGTQ problem there. Many times that framework erases what happens to people who are subject to all of these things.” https://www.law.columbia.edu/pt-br/news/2017/06/kimberle-crenshaw-intersectionality

  24. 24.

    George Wood is the Chairman of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship.

  25. 25.

    A.L. Genaro. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  26. 26.

    Herrin and Hudson, Nice Will Not Save Us, Vol. II, paragraph 144. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  27. 27.

    In my studies of practitioners and history of nonviolence, I have often referenced Michael Nagler’s book In the Footsteps of Gandhi: Conversations with Spiritual Social Activists (Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1990).

  28. 28.

    Cris Elkins at the Soulforce protest at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops annually from 2000 to 2004 in Washington, DC, at a time when “intrinsically evil” was the prevailing rhetoric regarding LGBTQI people in the Roman Catholic Church. Haven Herrin, 20 Years of Spiritual Justice: Soulforce 1998 to 2018 (Abilene, TX: Soulforce, 2018), 28. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  29. 29.

    This idea is examined in Soulforce’s “Refreshing Nonviolence” video course. Haven Herrin, Refreshing Nonviolence (Abilene, TX: Soulforce, 2019), //soulforce.org/refreshingnonviolence. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  30. 30.

    “Merit Badge Activism” is examined in Nice Will Not Save Us, Vol. I, paragraphs 112–119. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  31. 31.

    I reference the following online articles as evidence for this statement on Gandhi and King:

    Michael Harriot, “From Most Hated to American Hero: The Whitewashing of Martin Luther King, Jr.,” www.theroot.com (April 2018)

    Dara T. Mathis, “King’s Message of Nonviolence Has Been Distorted,” www.theatlantic.com (April 2018)

  32. 32.

    Herrin and Hudson, Nice Will Not Save Us, Vol. I, paragraph 86. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  33. 33.

    I paraphrase the work of Peter Gelderloos here, from How Nonviolence Protects the State (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2007), 12.

  34. 34.

    Herrin and Hudson, Nice Will Not Save Us, Vol. I, paragraph 88. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  35. 35.

    I draw again here from Peter Gelderloos’ work in How Nonviolence Protects the State, 8–9. Though I would posit here that Gelderloos’s definition of Nonviolence aligns more with “pacifism” and “not-violent” in the context of Soulforce, his point is well made that nonviolent struggles are never operating independently of violent systems and elements.

  36. 36.

    I am drawing here from the work of Dismantling Racism Works (www.dismantlingracism.org) for their insightful taxonomy of the layers of power divided into internalized, interpersonal, institutional, and ideological.

  37. 37.

    Herrin and Hudson, Nice Will Not Save Us, Vol. II, paragraph 67. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  38. 38.

    Ibid, paragraph 77. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  39. 39.

    Beau Reynolds. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  40. 40.

    Cole Parke. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  41. 41.

    The Soulforce Equality Ride is a young adult-led, recurring tour of conservative Christian campuses that took place from 2005 to 2016 and visited over 100 schools.

  42. 42.

    Mathis Kennington. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  43. 43.

    I am paraphrasing minister and activist A.J. Muste here. A reporter once asked him, “Do you really think you are going to change the policies of this country by standing out here alone at night in front of the White House with a candle?” A.J. Muste replied: “Oh I don’t do this to change the country. I do this so the country won’t change me.”

  44. 44.

    Dotti Berry. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  45. 45.

    Chelsea Gilbert. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

  46. 46.

    Herrin and Hudson, Nice Will Not Save Us, Vol. II, paragraphs 31–61. Reprinted with permission from Soulforce. www.soulforce.org. All rights reserved

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Herrin, H. (2021). The Serpent and the Dove: A Spiritual and Political Formation of Nonviolence and Direct Action in the LGBTQI Community. In: Lund, E.M., Burgess, C., Johnson, A.J. (eds) Violence Against LGBTQ+ Persons. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-52612-2_6

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