Organized religion has provided pain as well as well as spiritual support for many people. Frequently for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, and their allies (LGBTAs), the faith that should support their growth has condemned them, sometimes with violent results. At times, families of LGBTA people have, based on their religious beliefs, shunned them. While this experience isn’t universal, it is widespread enough to prompt furniture entrepreneur Mitchell Gold to co-edit “Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America.” Along with his organization, Faith in America (faithinamerica.info), this collection of personal stories is intended to help end religion-based bigotry.
The book, co-edited with Mindy Drucker, is divided into two parts: The body contains 40 personal stories of the impact of religion in the lives of gay men and lesbians. While many are well-known activists, there are also stories from average citizens, and Gold acknowledges that gay men are overrepresented in the stories. In the preface Gold has encouraged others, especially lesbians and transgender individuals, to share their stories at CrisisBook.org.
One story of particular interest to Our Lives readers is the account by U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin of coming out more publicly as she was running for office. These mini-memoirs reach the heart, hopefully convincing some to be more open to the LGBT community. Especially painful are the stories by two mothers, Mary Lou Wallner and Elke Kennedy, on the pain of losing their children due to homophobia.
The second part of the book is intended to touch the intellect, with information to encourage readers to quit using religion to justify their homophobia. Statistics on the impact of homophobia, particularly on youth, are offered in an opening section. Following the personal stories, “The Sin Question,” contains two commentaries by current or former ministers addressing the relationship between religion and homosexuality. Especially compelling and useful is the sermon by a Baptist minister, Dr. H. Stephen Shoemaker, who addresses the most commonly cited Biblical passages one by one and debunks their use to justify discrimination and abuse. Gold and Drucker have also provided useful information in both “The Untold Story” and the Resources section. In the former, they address what various groups can do to help correct the damage that’s been done by religious-based homophobia. The Resources section lists a variety of helpful organizations as well as a list of groups not to call.
Gold is putting his money behind this book. He has directed the proceeds to a variety of charities including the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and the Point Foundation. Through his Faith in America group (faithinamerica.info) Gold is distributing 5,000 copies of Crisis to high schools and 1,000 to churches during 2009. Commercial purchases of the book help supports these efforts.
For anyone interested in issues affecting LGBTA communities, religion and/or LGBT youth, I strongly recommend this book. I would go further and suggest they share copies with schools, churches, youth and those struggling to accept the LGBTA people in their lives. Not only will they give the recipients comfort and information, they will also financially support efforts nationwide to end homophobia.