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June 11th, 2006

“Love!”, We Shouted…

I went to the protests yesterday, in front of Focus On My The Family’s so-called Love Won Out conference at Immanuel’s Church in Silver Spring Maryland, missing the D.C. Pride parade and block party, and what was even worse, Baltimore’s "Hon" Fest in Hampden.  But I had to go, and it was the more rewarding experience.  I met so many kind and decent people on the picket line, all ages, gay and straight, all deeply troubled by the lies being told about homosexuals and homosexuality inside the sanctuary of a church.

The first thing I noticed when I got there was how remote Immanuel’s Church actually is from the city.  If Focus is bringing its circus to Washington D.C., why put it inside a church, and not all that big of one, all the way out here in the outer suburbs?  I discussed it with some of the other protesters and came to think that they did it so that they wouldn’t be mobbed by an angry gay community.  The thought also struck me that it was why they held the event right on D.C. Pride day…to have it happening while the city’s gay community would be busy with something else.  It wasn’t until I got home that another reason occurred to me: a number of Focus supporters might not have wanted to go into the city for such an event.  For all its appeals to black ministers lately, the anti-gay religious right is largely a phenomena of the well to do suburbs…the vanguards of the white flight of the 60s and 70s.  They may draw support from the rural voters, they are perfectly willing to appeal to the prejudices of some in the African American community, but the anti-gay agenda is being driven largely by the rich white burbs.  Dobson had to know his base probably wouldn’t want to drive into a largely black, never mind largely democratic city for his conference.

Our picket line was not huge, but according to Steve Boese of A Tenable Belief, neither was the crowd inside the conference.  Steve actually went into the conference (a thing Wayne Besen is apparently no longer allowed to do) and sat through most of the presentations and his estimate of the crowd size was about 300 or so people, in a church that could hold about four-hundred or so.  Lance Carroll, who protested Love Won Out when it was in St. Louis, said they’d gotten over a thousand people at their conference in that city.  But the people who stood in front of Immanuel’s Church yesterday, and held their signs for the attendees to see, had strength in more then simple numbers: the strength that comes from truely loving your neighbor, and caring about what happens to them.

Lance Carroll, the 18 year old who was taken to Love In Action against his will when he was 17, was there, as was Wayne Besen.  During the afternoon picket Lance spied what he thought were a group of LIA staff members and walked across the street to talk to them.  Having been forced to walk the walk of shame last year on the LIA campus in Memphis, it had to have been an exhilarating feeling for him to be able to freely choose whether or not to talk to LIA staff.  As it turned out only one of them was from LIA, the others were Exodus.  The LIA guy was new, and hadn’t been at LIA when Lance was in the program.  He told Lance that he and John Smid were the only two people from LIA there at the conference.  They all chatted with Lance for a bit, and Lance asked the LIA guy to tell John he said ‘hi’.  Of course Smid never had spine enough to come out and talk to him.  But later the other guy from LIA come back out, by himself, and walked over to the picket line.  He told Lance he wanted to hear from him directly why he was so upset over how he was treated at LIA.  Lance gave him an earful.  It had to have felt good to be able to get that off of his chest to someone on LIA staff.

I met many good and decent people…did a little chauffeur work for Lance and Wayne and Steve, back and forth to the Metro station, and watched so many interesting moments as the people inside the Love Won Out conference encountered people outside their doors, who were bearing witness to actual human love and compassion.  I’ll be chewing on what I saw for weeks I’m sure.  In the meantime, here are a few photos…

God Loves You

I just have to mention this about the image above…these folks there at the head of the picket line had just broken into a chorus of Amazing Grace when I walked over and snapped this one.  Listening to their quiet, insistent voices singing that song just there, just then, nearly brought me to tears. 

 

Shame On You

 

Homosexuality Is Not

 

Jesus Loves

 

Lance Carroll being interviewed

 

Love Won Out

 

 

No Fixing Needed

 

Choose Acceptance

 

Wayne Besen and Lance Carroll

 More photos later…bandwidth permitted…

 

9 Responses to ““Love!”, We Shouted…”

  1. peterson toscano Says:

    GREAT photos! Thanks so much for blogging about it. The posters say it all. Well done.

  2. Bruce Says:

    Thanks! Yes…those people images more interesting to me then big crowd shots. Posters and faces and body language. That’s why I’m not a news photographer. I’d rather make images of the people in a demonstration, then the demonstration, if you know what I mean.

  3. Antony Says:

    Nice photos! Thanks for posting them.

  4. williehewes Says:

    Yeah, great pictures. Kudos for being there.

    Wayne Besen looks so short! I always thought he was a tall guy… Lance looking sexy, too. Hmm. (He’s gay, Will.) Oh, yeah! *lol* Sorry about that, the heat’s doing strange things to my brain.

    *ahem* I’ll be good now…

  5. Steve Schalchlin Says:

    Terrific photos. Thanks so much for covering this event.

  6. Bruce Says:

    Willie:

    Ack…my apologies to Wayne. I have a thing for wide angle shooting whenever I’m in camera mode, and about half my shots at the Love Won Out protests were done with my zoom lens all the way back at it’s widest angle. Wayne is, I think about my height or maybe a tad taller. Same with Lance (I’m sure he’s still growing), and yes he’s very good looking (if I was thirty years younger I’d……be way too shy to say anything to him (grin)) and he has amazing calm and poise while being interviewed in front of a video camera. Being able now to go to these protests, and freely tell his story, has been a tremendously cathartic experience for him he says. He seems very calm considering the emotional brutality of what he endured, but its the calmness of someone who is putting a really bad experience behind them.

  7. williehewes Says:

    Ah, I thought it might be the angle… Don’t know much about photography though. I agree, Lance comes across as calm and strong. Kudos to him too.

  8. John A Says:

    It is tragic when people invoke Jesus’ name to support an agenda totally alien to his will and testament. We just did a program on homosexuality today and the ability to change to those who truly want to. Friends of mine who wanted to change have changed. There of course is nothing to be done with those who are satisfied with the way they are. The whole message of Jesus is that everyone can change and there are no exceptions.

  9. Bruce Says:

    No. The whole message of Jesus was love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. He said nothing about ex-gay therapy, and if you believe everything you read in the gospels, his praise of the Centurion’s love for his pais certainly seems to suggest he saw no necessary sin in same sex relationships. Now Paul seems to be a different story, but there is this old joke about how protestantism represents the ascendancy of Paul over Peter, and protestant fundamentalism represents the ascendancy of Paul over Christ.

    As for change, what I would really like to see is the establishment of ex-homophobe ministries, where people who really feel like they just aren’t righteous enough if they’re not making homosexuals hate themselves can, through bible study and prayer, experience change from unthinking cold hearted bastards into warm and loving and caring human beings who would never dream of taking one of life’s most precious and wonderful joys, intimate whole-hearted body and soul love, away from anyone. Nobody should hate themselves for being homosexual. In a better world, people would accept themselves just as they are, just as their maker created them to be.

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