"Note: I captured as best I could the words I spoke on Tuesday evening. I did not have an actual manuscript prepared but chose to address a few points."
Thank you for the opportunity to speak.
I only have a few points to make tonight.
I have worked to understand the situation of men and women who identify as LGBT. Specifically, last month I gathered a group of men and women to discuss sexual orientation and child welfare. This was an opportunity to listen and understand many people's situation in this regard. With that said, I want to make clear because of my Christian perspective, I understand these behaviors to be sinful. I think it is important to make that clear.
Listening to what has been said already, there is a presupposition here that we can end discrimination. We all discriminate. We discriminate on the basis of many things. We just heard an ordinance on soliciting in which a man stood up in support of the ordinance to prevent solicitors from coming to his door. Mayor, you and the city council will vote on this immediate ordinance and you will discriminate on the basis of a yes or no vote. We all discriminate.
We need to have a larger discussion on what human rights actually entails. Before we identify on the basis of our sexuality, ethnicity or anything else that we choose to divide us, we must remember that we are intrinsically the same. We are intrinsically the same because we are all made in the image and likeness of God. Yet we are different in our day to day. We need to have a larger discussion on human rights.
As I read this ordinance, including this provision only seeks to divide us. It has already been reported that there has been no report of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. If this provision is included, can the economically poor be included? What about political affiliation?
I have another recommendation, can the ordinance simply read the city will not discriminate against human beings? This recommendation acknowledges all of us as humans and does not divide us.
End of Message to Conway City Council
MY REFLECTION ON THE EVENING.
At the end of the meeting, I had several people-on both sides of the issue- come up to me and thank me for my words. One older gentleman stated, "Young man you stood between both groups. I appreciated that." The most common question I have received is, "Do you support or disagree with the ordinance. My answer is Yes. I support the substance of the ordinance and I disagree with its approach. The substantive support of the ordinance is on the ontological basis that we are all human beings made in the image and likeness of God. All employers should conduct employment practices on the basis of the employee's quality of work. When an employer negatively impacts a person's livelihood on basis other than his or her quality of work, it is dehumanizing. This leads to my disagreement with the ordinance. The city either needs to include all types of groups- economically disadvantaged, political affiliation, etc.-or consider the most accurate and affirmative statement that the city protects its employees from negative employment practices outside of issues related to work responsibilities. Lastly, I contend that not to include all other types of groups is discriminatory and therefore the ordinance lacks equality in its treatment of city employees.
The presupposition of ending discrimination is a noble idea but not possible. I propose that discrimination is a morally neutral behavior that exists in all human beings. Discrimination when used appropriately, selects the appropriate house for your family, participates in making the correct business decision, saves Soldiers and Law Enforcement in difficult situations, and even assist employers in choosing the best possible hirer. At the same time, we can not ignore the terrible consequences of discrimination which dehumanizes individuals, groups, and nations. We have seen it with Nazi Germany, Jim Crow South, Rwandan genocide between Hutu and Tsui, and Muslim extremism that targets Christians and Jews. This is part of our human experience and no human law can change that.
During the meeting, explicit or implicit statements were made that the LGBT movement represents an extension of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950's and 1960's. I will probably lose some folks here but the LGBT movement is not an extension of the Civil Rights Movement in two regards. One, LGBT persons have not experienced on a systematic level the deprivation of economic, social, political, and in some cases existence as Blacks did during that time period. While I will admit there have been isolated cases of discrimination and loss of life (Matthew Shephard comes to mind), this narrative fails not only on this regard but also an ecclesial one as well. The Civil Rights Movement was grounded in the local church. The movement was heavily populated by ministers, saturated with biblical language, and gathered much of the time in the churches. I am willing to be corrected but the national and local LGBT movement is not grounded in any faith tradition but it is grounded in humanism. Are there pockets of LGBT advocates which originate from faith traditions? I will certainly agree those exist, but to make the assertion that the LGBT movement is an extension of the Civil Rights Movement is disingenuous at best.
Conway has an approximate population close to sixty-thousand persons. The city council I believe is to represent the interest of the citizens. I have lived here going on eight years and on the basis of my observations, conversations with people, and decisions of the city; the traditional values and beliefs of the city are gradually changing. The testimony of several from the night are a testament to this possibility. "The city needs to progress." "We have waited since 1969." As I sat there in the room, I asked what does a more progressive Conway look like in the next ten years?
I completely sympathize with those in the LGBT community but I worry that they and supporters of the community are in danger of becoming the intolerance which they decry in other persons. My question to these men, women, and transgender, "What does a progressive Conway look like? Who and what ideas are included? Who and what ideas are included in this progressive Conway? I honestly would like to hear answers.
I was pleased to see a number of pastors in attendance but I was displeased that only a few of us spoke that evening. In a city that is heavily populated with local churches this was an opportunity for the communication of loving and wise theological reflection. We talk about loving our city and all those other "cool reach our city" evangelical statements; here was that opportunity. Pastors in our city need to consider providing their congregations with a loving and reasonable model to discuss social issues in our current period. It is the context in which our people live outside of Sunday gatherings, community groups, etc.
So there you have my summary of the ending. It is an interesting time to live in Conway and it presents an opportunity for loving, robust, and honest engagement. My hope is that we remember that we are all citizens of this city and as such we should pursue peace with one another.