Friday, October 29, 2010

A Reflection from Integrity Executive Director Max Niedzwiecki

Halloween – An Episcopal Holiday?

This Sunday, October 31st is Halloween. It is our national holiday for fear. It’s a time when many of us face our fears in a fake sort of way and try to have fun with it. For many LGBT folks, it's a day free of fear. It's a day when drag is mainstream and it's okay to be different.

Being different on other days sometimes creates fear. “Homophobia” is all about fear. Those who discriminate against LGBT people are “homophobic” – they’re afraid of us. Honestly, I have trouble with this word. I'm not scarey, I would rather other people not see me as scary, but I can’t control what other people feel. Feelings of fear are the major reasons that people discriminate against us and other people who are “different.” The important work we do at Integrity is to insist that LGBT persons are treated with the same respect as everyone else.

That respect needs to extend to ourselves as well. “Homophobia” also has a second meaning: not fear and discrimination against other people, but against ourselves. The recent teen suicides have been reminders, as if we needed it, that internalized homophobia can be deadly.

My wish for everyone who reads this is that on Sunday, October 31st we face our fears in a way that goes beyond the typical Halloween hoopla. It’s OK if you want to go to church with a fake arrow through your head (tell your Rector I said so), but I hope that during our time together in worship we can also accept the Grace we need to face our fears in a healthy and truthful way.

For me, facing truth and overcoming fear are big parts of being an Episcopalian. At our best, we seek God’s truth and follow it, leaving behind the fears that motivate so much of our prejudice and self-loathing, even when those fears are deeply embedded in our culture. As Jesus himself said, being a Christian is a path to liberation: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32)

The Episcopal Church’s progress on full inclusion for all people is a testament to our growing commitment to finding and following God’s truth, and turning our backs on fear. Let’s celebrate that, and commit to keeping the momentum going, this Halloween and beyond.

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