Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Good News From the South!

Last night, I gave the annual Margaret Cuninggim Lecture to a full auditorium of students, faculty, and staff at Vanderbilt University. I was a bit hesitant about accepting the invitation because my talks about sexuality and religion haven’t always gone well in the South. At a talk a year ago in Georgia, the first questioner said something like, “I don’t know what kind of minister you are, I don’t know what Bible you read, and I don’t know what church would hire you. I’ve never been so offended in my whole life.” A woman followed me into the elevator after that talk demanding to know if I had been saved.

Well, I am happy to report that this talk was warmly received. I told them I was there to talk about the “gospel of sexuality and religion.” As you know, the word gospel literally means the good news, and I shared with them the good news about the growing religious movement to affirm sexuality as a life fulfilling gift and the progress we are making on affirming sexual justice in faith communities. I told the organizers afterwards that I felt a little of my “southaphobia” (the irrational fear that New Englanders and New Yorkers feel about going to the south) ease away.

It also helped going into the speech to know that on Monday night, the Mississippi legislature had defeated a bill to outlaw abortion in the state. Emboldened by South Dakota (see posts below), Mississippi and eight other states introduced abortion bans. We can have successes, even in the South!

I return to Connecticut feeling re-energized. When 150 people in Tennessee respond positively to a message of sexual justice and Mississippi legislators resist the pressure to roll back women’s rights, I find hope. The vase on my desk of newly cut daffodils from my yard helps that feeling of rebirth!

MEDIA ALERT: I will be a featured commentator on "State of Belief" on Air America this Sunday at 5 p.m. Eastern time. On Monday, you can check their web site to hear the show. It’s also available at the itunes music store.


Anonymous said...

I like the flowers...

Anonymous said...

I am UU in Alabama. My experience is that the South is surprisingly complex when it comes about religion, sexuality, and progressive issues. You can go to places like Oxford, MS, York AL, and Miledgeville GA, and encounter beliefs and attitudes that are more sophisticated and progressive than places up North or out West. Plus the South is changing faster than the rest of the country in surprising ways. I am glad that you had a positive experience, and hope that you keep bringing the "Good News" everywhere you go!

Anonymous said...

I was at that lecture (you signed a copy of one of your books for me!) and I want to tell you how much I enjoyed it and how affirming and inspiring and revolutionary it was. Thank you for coming to Vanderbilt!