The Gospel According to Caitlyn Jenner

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I went to a carnival yesterday. My boyfriend and I were running errands in Matthew, NC and ran into a street fair. Every road was blocked off so we decided to just park and join in on the festivities.  As we walked toward the fair, there was someone standing on the corner protesting. One of those Christians, you know? He had a sign that said something to the effect of “America is going to hell because of science and homosexuals!!!” You all know me, I wanted to go up and talk to the man. But I was promptly told “you are not at work right now” so as I waited at the light to cross the street, using all the energy I had to hold my tongue, I witnessed a sad encounter between the man and a young woman. The woman, in great earnestness and with sincerity in her eyes, she said,

“You know, It’s not that I don’t believe in Jesus, I do not deny his existence. I just really want to know why are Christians so hateful? I have a really good friend, he’s transgender. Why, why do you hate him? You don’t even know him and you hate him!”

The man spouted off some trite tirade about sin and damnation and then the light changed and it was time to cross the street. I regret walking away from that conversation. It kept me up all night. I wanted so badly to tell the woman, “Listen, honey, the Christians who are yelling the loudest are not the best representatives of our faith, they are just the only ones we hear. I love Jesus. Jesus loves your friend.  And it is his great desire for me to love your friend as well. I don’t even know him… and I love him.”

It kept me up all night. Her poignant question rings as clear as a bell,

“Why are Christians so hateful?” 

It’s a good question. A question I pondered when I watched on the news, the story on repeat of Kim Davis, the Kentucky Clerk who refused to distribute marriage licenses to same sex couples.  I watched as the Christian community called her a martyr, which is an insult to the legacy of Christian martyrdom. She is a martyr only of her own ignorance and hatred.

The questions rings as clear as a bell. It keeps me up at night:

Why are Christians so hateful?

Being a Christian today, it’s discouraging. It’s disconcerting. Honestly, it’s embarrassing.

It’s embarrassing to be affiliated with people like the man at the carnival- yelling at the top of his lungs that homosexuals were bound for hell.

It’s embarrassing to be affiliated with Kim Davis, refusing to sanction two people who are in love.

It’s so embarrassing to go to church, to go to church conferences, and  listen to the archaic, uninformed, unimpressive conversations about homosexuality. As an institution, we the Church are so behind in our understanding of sexuality, homosexuality, in particular.

It is so exhausting to hear this tired conversation again and again, repeating this sames 3 or five verses condemning homosexuality.

We love to read these verses at the top of our lungs while not realizing that  in the same chapter we regretfully do not acknowledge the fact that

we also love  red lobster, that abominable shrimp is too good to pass up.

We also love our polyester blend, who really cares if we wear mixed fabric or not?

We also love our pig skin football. When God said “don’t eat pork, don’t even touch it” (Deuteronomy 14:8), surely he wasn’t talking about the Carolina Panther’s pig skin!”

The conversation about homosexuality is hypocritical, it’s uninformed, and it’s old. Ok. I said it. It’s so old. We have been having the same conversation for  the last 50 years, at least. The world has changed. The understanding of sexuality has completely changed.

I don’t know if you spend any time with teenagers but their understanding of sexuality, the sexual self, is completely different from our own formation. Whenever a teenager wanders into my office I say “how is your boyfriend… or girlfriend?” Who knows what is going on with them! A teen is crying about his girlfriend one moment and introducing his boyfriend to you the next.  There is a generation of people coming of age whose sexuality is so fluid. Things are different now.

And as quiet as it’s kept… that generation is not the only one. As much as we like to keep it a secret, sexuality is pretty fluid among our generation and our parent’s generation as well.

I mean you are as straight as they come… except that one time when you had too much tequila and woke up next to a man.

Or you love your husband and children so you don’t think about the three months in college when you had a girlfriend… it was only a phase after all…

We want homosexuality to be a clear cut, it’s a black and white issue. It’s a sin, being heterosexual is not a sin. We have the texts to prove it. But it isn’t black and white. It’s complex. It’s intricate. And as the Church, we don’t even have the language to even understand the different complexities of sexuality in society. That ends today. In this church we will, at the very least, consider the different fibers of sexuality.  so let’s begin:

First, there is sex. Sex refers to a person’s biological makeup. Sexual organs. Things like gonads, reproductive organs, and chromosomes. Are you born XX or XY? Sex seems clear cut but not even sex is not black and white like we want to make it. Many children are born with both sexual organs. Or not enough. Or neither. Doctors and parents make the decision about the sex of a child more often than you think. It happens all of the time. You probably didn’t know that because the thing about sex is that

it is none of you business.

People are always asking “is that a boy or a girl?,” but really it is none of your concern. What is going on underneath my robe- unless you want to buy me a house, a car, and put a ring on my finger- it is none of  your business.  And neither is anyone else’s sex.

Second, there is gender. Gender refers to the ways that we act out behaviors associated with our sex. Gender is the performance of being male or female. My gender is the reason why I am currently wearing heels too high to walk in. Gender is the way that girls try to sway their hips when they become preteens. Gender is what makes little boys puff out their chest to make them look tough even though crocodile tears are flowing down their cheeks. Gender is boys in blue and girls in pink. Gender is behavior. Gender is a verb.

Then there is gender conforming and gender nonconforming. Gender conforming or gender normativity is when a person identifies with their own biological sex and behaves accordingly. The princesses who loved pink, grew up to love pink, and raised their own princesses. The boys who loved dirt, football, and burps and grew up to raise boys who love dirt, football, and burps. That is gender conforming.

Then there is gender nonconforming. Gender non-conformity is when a person’s sense of self is incongruous with their biological sex. You have seen them throughout your life. When I was little, I had two older brothers. I dressed and played, and acted like them. I despised dresses. I wanted nothing more to run and jump and get dirty on my dirt bike with my brothers. We call that being a tomboy. It’s called being gender nonconforming. We all know gender nonconformists. Little girls who hate dresses. Little boys who rather be cheerleaders than football players. We have seen it. Why are they not welcome at the Church?

And then there are those who are gender non-conforming and find that they so completely identify with the opposite sex that they totally disassociate with their own gender-transgender individuals,- or totally disassociate with their own sex- transsexuals. Caitlyn Jenner is transgender. She was born a man, became a famous Olympian but then realized that the person that she is on the inside is female and not male. So she began to dress, behave, and assume the identity of the woman that believed she was born to be. Why is she not welcome at the Church?

Then there is sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is external rather than internal. It is not about your body like sex, it’s not about your identity like gender, it is about your affinity. It is about who you are attracted to.

Heterosexuals are who we all pretend to be (I said it). Heterosexuals are those who are attracted to the opposite sex. When a man loves a woman, when a woman loves a man.

Homosexuals are those who are attracted to the same sex. When a man loves a man. When a woman loves a woman.

Bisexuals are those who are attracted to both men and women. Bisexuals get no love from either heterosexuals or homosexuals. We all think they need to pick a team.

There are asexuals, those who do not perceive any sexual attraction to either males or females.

Sexual orientation is complex. We want to make it a black and white issue but it is not. Are people born gay or do they decide to be gay? The answer is yes. We all have the nephew who we knew he was gay when he was three years old at the family reunion when he wanted to dance with the girls instead of play with the boys. We knew when he was three, before he had any idea what sex was so of course we weren’t surprised when he brought his boyfriend home for thanksgiving, how could be we be? Come on you know you had that nephew!  Are homosexuals born gay? We all know that the answer is yes.

Do people decide to be gay? The answer is yes.  If a little girl was habitually raped by her stepfather from the time that she was 6 until the time that she is 16 and does not find safety or intimacy in the arms of a man is she wrong for deciding to find love in the arms of a woman? Of course you have your opinion but who are you tell her how to give or receive love? Is homosexuality a decision? yes.

It is not black and white. It is complex. You can be a male, gender non-conforming heterosexual. You can be a female, gender-conforming homosexual. You can be a female, transgender, asexual or anything in between and no matter who you are or how you identify you should be welcome at the Church but such people typically are not welcome.

Why? because…

Christians are not welcoming.

Christians are not hospitable.

Christians are hypocritical.

Christians are hateful

to those who are not cis gender heterosexuals. And

it’s discouraging. It’s disconcerting. Honestly, it’s embarrassing.

And the only reason that I do not leave this institution is because I am a company woman. And I believe in the product of my company. I believe in our product.  And our product is salvation. And we are selling our product at a very reasonable price. We are giving it away for free. I believe that the Church has something to give. serenity. and peace. and hope. and eternal life. We have the best product there is and his name is Jesus.

But we Christians, we the followers of Christ, We have lost our heritage. We have lost our identity entirely. We are the children of God. And God is love. How is it that we are marked by and known for our hate?

We have to reclaim our identity. We have to figure out again what does it actually mean to be Christian?

Paul, in the book of Galatians, asked the same question, “what does it really mean to be a Christian?”

Paul was preaching during a time when the Christian church was going through a major identity crisis.  The first Christians were a group of rag-tag Jews who believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah.  They believed that in order to accept Jesus you had to convert to the Jewish identity which included circumcision, a strict diet, and all sorts of rules that made a Jew a Jew.

To them, Christians shouldn’t eat shrimp (Which means No Red Lobster)

To them, Christians shouldn’t wear mixed fabric (Which means say good-bye to your favorite t-shirt because it is most assuredly 50% cotton and 50% polyester.)

To them Christians should not touch pork (Which means football season is canceled indefinitely).

Circumcision, eating shrimp, touching pork, these things don’t mean anything to you but to first century Christians, it meant everything. Being Jewish was everything. And they were so adamant about Jewish culture that it got in the way of spreading the Gospel because they came off as

not welcoming

and inhospitable.

and hypocritical

and hateful.

Paul says in Galatians that we must reclaim and hold fast to our identity. Our identity is not our customs, it is not our ancient beliefs, our identity is in Christ. And whatever we need to do to get this message of Christ to the rest of the world, that is what we must do. Even if that means changing the thoughts that we held dear, whether it be about shrimp or sexuality, it simply doesn’t matter. Even if it means letting go of the things that we think are the most important, whether that is circumcision or homosexual marriage, it doesn’t matter.

His words ring as clear as a bell:

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God though faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free,

nor is there male or female,

for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26-29).  

He says so clearly that it doesn’t matter if you are Jew or gentile. It doesn’t matter your race or ethnicity, it doesn’t matter your gender, sex, or sexual orientation. It doesn’t matter if you are

heterosexual

or homosexual

or bisexual

or asexual

we are all one in Christ.

It is time for us to heed the words of Paul and to put down our heritage of hatred and reclaim our heritage in the love of Jesus Christ. It is time for us to receive the Caitlyn Jenners of the world with welcoming, hospitable, sympathetic, and loving arms. For this is the Church. This is their home. We are all home here.

In Christ.

Amen.

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Good Sex Part 3: Driver Roll Up the Partition, Please! And other Good Sex.

Song of Solomon 1:1-16

 

Sisters and Brothers, this is a manifesto, a treatise, a great opus to that glorious activity that we like to call

Knocking boots 

Slapping skins

Getting it on

Having Relations

Doing the Nasty

Scoring!

That glorious act that we call sex. 

This sermon begins, as all great sermons do, with a personal narrative. The other day, I had. 

A conversation with my friend about Beyoncé (gotcha!). My friend said that she didn’t listen to Beyoncé, especially not her latest album, because it was explicit, provocative, encouraging of promiscuity, and ultimately unchristian. Firstly, I don’t let anyone talk about Beyoncé in front of me like that. But secondly, I realized that the real problem was not what she thought of Beyoncé, the real problem was what she thought about the Christian view on sex.

“Yes,” I replied to her. “Her music is, especially of late, absolutely explicit. And since you don’t listen to her music, let me tell you about one of the most explicit songs on the album. It’s called Partition.” I began to tell her about the song in which Beyoncé is singing to her driver to raise the partition between the driver and her and her lover because she is having sex in the back of a limo. She sings about how her lover has smeared her lipstick and torn her blouse. She sings about the handprints and footprints on the glass. And on and on it goes.

The song is nasty.

It’s provocative.

It’s deeply deeply sexual.

And it’s deeply deeply Christian.

I realized that the Puritanical aversion to sexuality- based on the Puritan’s theological belief of a dualism between the soul and the body that really bordered on heresy- still has its choke-hold on American Christianity and our views on sex and intimacy. This aversion is exacerbated in the Black Church because the narrative of the black bodies of the slaves was that their bodies were hyper-sexual and over-sexed, a narrative that still lingers today. As a reaction to this narrative, the Black Church tried to completely divorce itself from all notions of sexuality, creating a stark dichotomy between holiness and sexuality- they become absolutely mutually exclusive.[1] As a result, Christians – black Christians in particular- have a tendency to believe that sex is bad.

Talking about sex is bad.

Having it is bad. 

Wanting to have it is bad.

When in actuality, nothing could be further from the truth. Sex is good. Like all things in the cosmos, God created sex and called it good. Moreover, there is a strong connection between the soul and the sexual self. This connection is most beautifully illustrated in the Song of Solomon. If you put the lyrics of Beyoncé’s song Partition next to the text, you would think that Beyoncé is plagiarizing because there are so many similarities and allusions. Take a look at Chapter 1:

Verse 1- Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth- for your love is more delightful than wine.

Verse 4- Take me away with you- let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his bed chambers.

Verse 13- My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh resting between my breasts. 

This sounds pretty provocative to me.

Look at verse 9- I liken you, my darling, to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariot horses. Here is a quick lesson on history and horses. A mare is a female horse. The Pharaoh’s chariots were not pulled by mares, they were pulled by stallions- uncastrated male horses. Once when Pharaoh was battling the King of Quidash, the enemy put a mare in heat among the chariots and the chariot horses went crazy (brilliant tactical move on their part).[2] The text here is saying this: you make me feel wild, crazy, like how a stallion feels around a mare in heat.

That sounds pretty provocative to me.

Look how the lover responds in verse 16- How handsome you are, my beloved! Oh, how charming! And our bed is verdant. Verdant means rich, lush, like a vibrant and beautiful forest. In other words, what is going on in the bedroom is vibrant and lush. 

This sounds pretty provocative to me.

Traditionally, we believe that the Song of Solomon is the wedding song of God and God’s beloved, Israel. This text is about God’s ardent, passionate longing and eternal love for Israel, for the Church, and for us. This song shows us that our response to God’s love should be passionate as well. This text is about God. But if we are too quick to over-spiritualize the text, we may miss a few things. We may miss the very fact that this deeply sexual manuscript can be used as the truest metaphor for God’s ardent love exemplifies how great sex is in the mind of God. If we are too quick to over-spiritualize this text, we may miss the great celebration of human sexuality that is plainly present before us. It states clearly that sex is beautiful. That is a theological assertion that the text is making- sex is beautiful. Therefore, the beauty and goodness of sex fits squarely into our faith and Christian understanding: 

Sex is nasty.

It’s provocative.

It makes your pulse race.

It raises your blood pressure.

It makes you sweat.

It ruins your hair.

It’s nasty.

It’s provocative.

And it’s beautiful. Sex is good.

 Friends, there is such a thing as good sex. Today we are going to allow the Bible to teach us the three defining characteristics of good sex.

1. Good sex is creative. I don’t mean here that good sex requires new and interesting ways of performance (although there are many relationship counselors who would argue that creativity in the bedroom is key to maintaining healthy relationships. We will discuss this more later), I mean good sex is creative in that good sex creates. Good sex is productive, it produces. We find this illustrated for us in Genesis chapter 1. In verse 27 God creates humankind in God’s image. In verse 28, the first, the very first thing that God says to the humans God made was “Be fruitful and increase in number” (Gen. 1:28). In other words, “Go! Have sex!” Sex is (typically) the prerequisite for child creation. The awe, the wonder, even the miracle of sex is that two bodies can join together in the sexual act and create another body. Creating life, creative and productive sex is one of the most beautiful things you can do with your body.

My end in this sermon series is to give you practical sexual ethics that you can use in your life so here is the first one: only have sex with someone you are willing to procreate with. If you cannot see yourself raising a child with this person- If you think to yourself “this person would be a horrible mother. Or this person would be an awful father!” then keep your underwear on. Baby’s momma/ baby’s daddy drama usually stems from choosing sex partners that you would not choose as family partners. But family is the product of sex. Therefore, it is impossible to call a child a mistake or to call a pregnancy an accident, a failure of birth control or contraception. Because the child is the natural and normal consequence of sex. The mistake was not the pregnancy, the mistake was the sex itself. Good sex does not need contraception (I’m not saying that contraception is bad, I’m saying it doesn’t NEED it). Think of it like this: if you get pregnant and the first thing you think when seeing the positive sign is, “Oh no. Now what am I going to do?” or “How am I going to raise this child alone?” then you are not having good sex. Or if you receive that fateful text message that says “I’m pregnant” and your first response is “are you sure that it’s mine?” or “so uhhhh what are you going to do about that?” You are not having good sex. Good sex is productive. Only have sex with someone you would be willing to produce with. Of course, that assumes that you know your partner well enough to determine whether s/he would be a good reproductive partner. Which brings me to my next point-

 2. Good sex is selective. Do you see my shoes? Aren’t they nice? You don’t have to tell me they are nice, I know they are nice. I bought them. I didn’t spend a lot of money on them but I’m very particular about my shoes. I don’t wear just anyone’s shoe. I don’t wear just any kind of shoe. I’m particular. I’m a particular person. I have all sorts of particularities. On everything. Even toothpaste. You see my teeth? This bright smile is brought to you, not by just any toothpaste, this is Crest Extra Whitening at work here. I’m particular and you are too. How many of you are particular about the food you eat? About cereal? How many of you don’t eat “fun flakes” but you eat Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes? I don’t care how rich or poor you are, 28 years of working in a soup kitchens has taught me that no one is too poor to be particular. I don’t care if you haven’t eaten in three days, if I put a bowl of slop in front of you, you would have some questions for me. You would say “what is this? I don’t eat this!” You’re particular. If I sat down with each of you, I could find out your particularities all the way down to your shoe-strings, many of you. And it makes no sense, brothers and sisters, -it is a vast incongruency- to be particular about the kind of clothes you wear, to be particular about the kind of food you eat, to be particular about the kind of car you will drive or be seen in, to be particular even down to the thread-count in your sheets and then to invite just any ole person to lay on those satin sheets with you! It makes no sense, it is a vast incongruency, to only stay in 4 or 5 star hotels and then to invite just any person to spend the night with you in that expensive hotel room. Be particular. Be selective. Be discriminating. Not everyone deserves what you’ve got. Just because he likes you doesn’t mean he deserves your sex. Just because she is willing doesn’t mean she deserves your sex. Be selective. What you’ve got between your legs is a gift and it’s a gift not for the masses. Jesus said. “Do not throw what is sacred to the dogs, your pearls to the swine (Mat. 7:6). Be particular. Be discriminating. Be selective.

We are about to cross a threshold here. Are you ready? Good sex is not just selective. Good sex is ultimately selective. What does that mean? Good sex takes place in the confines of a marriage. In Beyoncé’s Partition, she wasn’t singing about a man she met last night in the club. She wasn’t singing about her on-again off-again boyfriend. She wasn’t singing about the guy she just talks to during cuffing season. She was singing about her husband. That is what makes the song so very Christian. In the beginning f the song she entreats the audience to call her “Hey Mrs. Carter,” she is establishing her marital status. Good sex happens in marriage.

We have a deep misunderstanding about sex because we have a deep misunderstanding about marriage. The problem is that single people have a habit of mimicking in singleness what they think marriage is. And then marriage becomes a caricature of itself. People think “Oh, we live together. We have a couple of kids. We are relatively faithful to one another. We have been together forever. We are basically married.” No. You’re. Not.

Marriage is more than living together.

Marriage is more than having children with each other.

Marriage is more than being exclusive to one another.

Marriage is a covenantal vow between two people and their God. In Genesis we see marriage defined for us (Gen. 2:15-25). God creates Adam. And though God gives Adam everything. Plentiful food. An honorable vocation as a gardener. And all the animals as companions, yet Adam was alone. So God took from Adam’s rib and fashioned Eve. Adam takes one look at her and says, “Finally bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23). The text goes on to say, “This is why a person leaves their family and cleaves to their spouse (Gen. 2:24). That’s what marriage is. It is a lifetime commitment to take two hearts, two minds with different thoughts, two souls with different experiences and vowing, working, cleaving to become one. It is a vow to give all of yourself to another and to receive all of the other in return. Listen to the vows that two people say when exchanging rings in a United Methodist Wedding:

“I give you this ring

As a sign of my vow

With all the I am

And all that I have

I honor you.” [3]

Marriage is a vow to give everything to each other, all that you are and all that you have.

And when your bodies join together in sex, in the sweat, and the passion, and the heat of the moment, you make these vows again. And again. And again.

That’s good sex.

Sex that happens in a bond of commitment and trust. Sex that is

Unafraid of abandonment.

Unprotected- it doesn’t fear disease or fatal illness.

It is without pain.

It is without shame.

That’s good sex. It’s not something you can have with just anyone. Nor should you want to.

Ok, good sex happens within the confines of marriage but I’ve been brushing up on my formal logic lately so hear me carefully: Good sex happens within the confines of marriage but just because you are married doesn’t mean you are having good sex. I hear people say all the time, “we got married because we were tired of living in sin.” And then surprise, surprise, they bring their sexual sin into the union. Recall the sexual sins that we discussed last week: Sex that is violent- spouses coercing sex from each other. It’s a sin. Prostitution- using sex as a means to an end. “We can only have sex if you do what I say” or using sex as a way to manipulate or control your spouse. It’s a sin. Lust- the root of adultery and addiction that breaks up the union. It’s a sin. So I am not suggesting that sex gets simple or easy once people get married. Good sex is something that you have to work at with your spouse. Which brings me to my final point:

3. Good sex is verdant. It’s lively, it’s lush and plentiful. I hear married people say all the time “Oh, we don’t really have sex anymore.” To which I respond, “That is a sin. And a shame.” If you are married, you should be having sex. A lot. With great regularity. All of the time. In I Corinthians 7:16 Paul tells married couples that they should be having sex. He recommends that they abstain for short periods of time only for the purpose of prayer and fasting, again only for short periods and only if both partners agree (I Corinthians 7:1-6). Sex shouldn’t just happen on birthdays, anniversaries, or vacations, it should happen all of the time. The problem is that when you have been told that you should be ashamed of your sexuality from the time you learn what sex is, then it is quite possible to arrive to the marriage bed and still hear the voices repeating in your head, “Sex is bad. Sex is bad. Sex is bad.” But friends here me clearly, sex is not bad. Sex is good! When you are married you have the privilege, you have the right, nay the responsibility

To slap skins and knock boots!

To get it on and have relations!

To run, shoot, and score!

Go and have sex that is creative and Productive.

Selective and particular.

Have sex that is bound up in covenant.

Have sex that is sweaty and nasty.

Sex that is explicit and provocative.

The kind of sex that makes you yell from the back of a limo, “Driver, Roll up the partition! Please!

Have Nasty

And X-rated

And Holy

And righteous

And good

And good

And good.

Have Good Sex!

Amen.

[1] For more information on this check out Sexuality and the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective by Kelly Brown Douglass.

[2] Davis, Ellen. Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament. Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 2001.

[3] United Methodist Book of Worship

Homelessness in Charlotte. A Wake Up Call

My name is Tiffany Thomas. I am the pastor of South Tryon Community Church, a United Methodist church that sits on the corner of South Tryon and Remount road. In this community, I have watched in horror as homeless persons lay down to sleep on benches, stoops and sidewalks up and down Tryon street. I have looked into the desperate eyes of so many who have told me that same story, “The shelters are full, there is no place to go.” I have heard reports of people dying in the night, out in the elements- tragic tales whispered and lamented among this community where most are constantly endanger of losing their own places of rest and finding themselves in the same predicament.

“Am I next? Will it be me? Or my child? Will death find us in the street, where heat eludes us,” so many have asked.

Last night, I went to the police department to find out what happened to a homeless man who is a member of my community, and dear friend of mine. He is a gentle soul, a Christian, he leaves an encouraging note on my car almost everyday, a scripture or a quote- every note is signed “God loves you and so do I.” When my groundskeeper reported to me that my friend died on a bench in Uptown, Charlotte, I frantically sought help from the police station to find out what had become of him. The police officer could offer little help, “Yes,” he said, “a homeless person has recently died.Yes, it was in uptown, Charlotte.Yes, he died in the night, on a bench. That is all I can say.”

“Why hasn’t it made the news”, I asked, tears of grief streaming down my face for the man who I may or may not know.

“Deaths of this sort rarely make the news,” he replied.

Deaths of this sort. Deaths of the homeless sort. Deaths of the impoverished sort. Deaths of the voiceless sort. They die in secret in the middle of public squares. Their bodies hurriedly removed from Trade, from Tryon before the important sort, the wealthy sort, the high political clout sort are inconvenienced traveling from their warm homes to their warm corporate offices.

I left the police station stricken with grief.
I left the police station mad as hell.

The city of Charlotte is ill equipped to deal with the needs of our rising homeless population. It is time that we recognize and face what my constituents know all to well: The shelters are too small. Too many people are forced to brave the cold or to purposely get arrested as the jail house is the only emergency shelter in the entire city where one won’t be turned away.

I am making a call to all communities of faith. It is time that we take seriously the needs of those with no place to sleep. It is time that we open our doors and exercise the gift of hospitality, an exercise that our God commands of us. At South Tryon Community Church we will be opening our doors and providing cots for people to stay over night when the weather drops below 20 degrees. I invite, I urge all communities of faith to likewise make the effort to provide emergency shelter to one, five, twenty-five homeless persons on the upcoming frigid winter nights.

For the Torah says ” You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy, and to the poor in your Land” (Dueteronomy 15:11)

For Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me… when you did it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me’ (Mat 25:35-36,40)

For Mohammad, peace be upon him, says, “And worship God alone… and do good unto the needy, and the neighbor from among your own people, and the neighbor who is a stranger, and the friend by your side, and the wayfarer.” (An-Nisa’ 4:36)

At South Tryon this is what we will do. Will you?

Rev. Tiffany Thomas
South Tryon Community Church
Pastor
revtiffanythomas@gmail.com