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RGOD2: Nature red in tooth and claw

The title comes from Alfred Lord Tennyson's “In Memoriam A. H. H.,” written in 1850. The quotation refers to humanity:

Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation's final law
Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek'd against his creed

A year ago, my partner and I happened to be in New York and it was horrifying to see for ourselves the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. Yet, at the same time, it was inspirational to see how neighbor helped neighbor and how compassion and reaching out to a friend in need was a natural human reaction.

We spent part of the weekend down in Greenwich Village supporting businesses that had been closed when the power failed after the storm’s destructive surge. Everyone was so grateful to see us and appreciated our “showing up” in a time when other tourists might run the other way or stay safely cocooned from the devastation in the northern part of Manhattan. Jersey Shore and other parts of the city were hit so badly but it was remarkable to see the indomitable human spirit spring back in the face of such overwhelming despair.

Another global storm that demands our attention

As the world looks through the windows of our television screens at the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan to our Filipino neighbors, our heart breaks at this recent human tragedy.

Anderson Cooper’s reports have been a wonderful balance between unfolding the personal and collectively tragic stories and the acts of generosity and support going on right now. Working with the local governments, the U.S. military with support from USAID and international aid organizations have been doing heroic work and ensuring airports are open for emergency evacuations and tents and emergency supplies are forthcoming. As Americans whine about the broken website that is failing to register some us for affordable health insurance, hundreds of thousands of people are homeless and on the edge of a second typhoon of disease and further displacement. Even the dead have not been buried yet.

Human beings have never seen a storm of this magnitude, so we hope the media will help us understand its implications in the light of changing global weather patterns that will affect all of us and not just drop the story in a week from now. A friend, Bill Youngblood, has worked in mass media all his life and commented: “The miracle of modern communication with its immediate access to powerful images and reaching vast audiences instantaneously is often diminished by the real impact it has on our response to what we see.”

Seeing the worst and the best in each one of us

A crisis can both bring out the best and worst in us individually and collectively. We can find inspiration in the simple ways human beings reach out in compassion and solidarity, we can be simply indifferent and cocoon ourselves from human suffering whenever possible, or worse, we can exploit others suffering for our own validation. Yesterday, I read Lennox Grant’s response to the tragedy unfolding in the Philippines and it represented another kind of destruction that may be ultimately more devastating than any natural disaster. Recognizing the difficult road taken by the Philippino LGBT community in the past 30 years to get to a place of nominal equality and recognition, (see this article ) he had this to say:

“the Phillipinos must examine the scriptures to determine if this disaster has anything to do with their LGBT cultural revolution.

Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed because they allowed LGBT culture to become entrenched in their society.

The Catholic Bishops has been warning film producers to tone down their promotion of LGBT in some of the films they produce. The promoters of LGBT will not listen.

God loves the LGBT person but he hates LGBT sin

This is a good time for Philippinos to reflect and turn to God for answers”

It is human to want answers to even the most difficult questions and it is tragic that anyone or any group is so stigmatized and misrepresented in a society that even thinks about this kind of cause and effect. LGBT people and their straight neighbors and family members were hit with the same storm and we will see the same stories or courage and generosity coming from LGBT and straight people who are much more concerned about basic survival needs than even their concern about labels and identities in the face of common suffering. These traumatic experiences can bring a family and community even closer and we will be also be hearing about how the LGBT community is also involved in the tragedy, as well as in the rescue, recovery and ultimately rebuilding efforts.

A time to wake up from our own problems

The role of the U.S. military and government is an inspiration at a time when broken and divided America is playing its own blame game. Our military personnel, international aid organizations and religious organizations will all be putting their staff and volunteers in harm’s way in the coming days so others can simply survive and live. If we are focused on other issues, we will miss a moment that we need to think about.

Those of us who live in places that could be hit in an instant by a catastrophic natural disaster need to remind ourselves that tomorrow – this could be us. We are that vulnerable and we need to know others will be there for us in the ways we can be present for them. These heroes and sheroes represent the best of our country and our common humanity and deserve our support and their organizations deserve our donations. There is not much we can do for poor Lennox Grant and his mean God, but there is something each one of us can do to support the people who are out there working long hours and in dangerous conditions out of sheer human solidarity.

Who can we rely on for inclusive support?

I have always been impressed by the work of the American Jewish World Service and have the deepest admiration for Ruth Messinger, their president. Their compassion is rooted in the terrifying ordeal of European Jews caused not by a natural catastrophe, but by a religious one, not unlike the spirit of Grant’s tragic theological reflection. AJWS’s consistent response to human tragedy is well-documented and I will always be grateful to Ruth and her colleagues who provided the earliest response to the Ugandan LGBT community who were facing enormous religious persecution five years ago from right wing Christians including my own Anglican church in the U.S. and in Uganda. So I hope you can find a way to support AJWS’s efforts in the Philippines knowing everyone will be served, without judgment or prejudice. This is a time for all people of goodwill to work together and to put our own political problems and divisions in some perspective. http://ajws.org/

RGOD2, written by the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle of St. Paul’s Cathedral in San Diego, looks at faith and religion from an LGBT point of view. Ogle is known around the world for his work in support of LGBT rights and HIV-prevention efforts. He is president of St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation. Donations to the foundation can be made by clicking HERE RGOD2 appears on SDGLN and GLBTNN.