moral monday comes to asheville. and i was channeling the 60s.

moral monday in asheville

“this is no momentary hyperventilation and liberal screaming match, this is a movement.”

- rev. william barber in pack square, asheville. 5 august 2013.

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if you haven’t heard of moral mondays yet, you’re about to.

since the end of april, thousands of north carolina residents have gathered in raleigh (the capital of nc) to protest the politics and policies that have been put in place by the current legislature and administration. as the weeks have passed, the numbers of protesters have grown. the diversity of the crowd has grown. and the voices of the progressives has grown as more and more policies have been put in place. these thousands of citizens have gathered for the past 13ish mondays to remind the government what morals are most important to them. they have risked arrest, carried signs, sung songs, chanted & cheered, and made their voices heard.

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it’s being called a grassroots movement, a 21st century civil rights movement, led by Rev. William Barber II (president of NC NAACP – a civil rights organization in the US). and what the people are saying is something like this: north carolina is better than this. we care about our citizens, and we will not support this backwards decline. we want equality. and we will stand together and fight for the rights of all people.

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so, instead of complaining or feeling overwhelmed & hopeless, the mantra of the determined moral mondays participants is: “forward together! not one step back!”

so, what’s to protest, you ask? well, issues like unemployment, voting rights, abortion, race, marriage equality, poverty, immigration, concealed weapons now allowed in bars and public schools, public water, and education to name a few. if you are an american, perhaps you have heard of some of the somewhat sneaky bills that have been passed (or are on their way to be signed into law by the governor mccrory) in the past few months… things like an abortion bill introduced late in the day, without the voice of the people, which will all but shut down 14 of 15 clinics in nc that perform safe, medical abortions.* there are many decisions which have been made which undermine or take away rights, all for the love of big business and money. policies that seem to hinder many and help a few.

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and while there are residents of nc who support these bills and laws, there are many north carolinians who disagree and want to makes their voices heard. so, they began meeting outside the general assembly building in raleigh and voicing their opinions, urging those in government to listen to the people, and to not just make decisions for themselves.

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well, as of now, congress is in recession for the summer, but the moral monday protests continue on. since the legislature is no longer meeting in raleigh during their summer break, the protestors decided to take their message on the road throughout the state.

and their first stop… asheville.

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so, guess who went to the protest? i was expecting a few hundred people, hoping for no arrests, and praying for a peaceful and powerful demonstration. i got way more than i was expecting.

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it is estimated that well over 5000 people attended monday’s mountain moral protest (as it was called – since we are in the mountains), and i’ve heard that there was even possibly around 6500 in attendance.

needless to say, i was blown away. the crowd was most definitely diverse. all ages. all socio-economic statuses. clergy. rabbi. business people. hippies. middle-aged. young. hipsters. african. white. hispanic. gay. straight. lawyers. teachers. college students. all walks of life.

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there was singing – “we shall overcome”, a popular civil rights song, and a revised rendition of “hallelujah”. there was praying. there was cheering. and booing. there was laughing. dancing. shouting. and quiet moments of holding hands.

and there were signs. oh, boy, were there signs.

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it was a community gathered with one common goal: to take back north carolina. to work for justice for all people. numerous times i had goosebumps or realized that i had some goofy smile on my face. i nodded my head in agreement. shouted out: “oh yeah!”. held the hand of my love, who stood beside me. and i celebrated the right that i have to exercise this freedom to express myself, to gather with others, and to realize, once again, that i am not alone in my thoughts and ideals and beliefs.

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it was inspiring to say the least. and i found myself wondering if this is what it felt like in the 60s… a black preacher standing in front of a crowd, inspiring and uniting us in a common dream that one day all we will be equal, that this world will be a place of peace & justice. i looked around at all of the different faces, and i felt that powerful human connection. in those moments, i felt truth. i felt the truth of the possibility of a world, a kingdom (if you want to speak theologically) as it was meant to be. i felt hope. and community.

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this is why i was so excited to move back in asheville. because of moments like this mountain moral monday afternoon, with the sun beating down and the breeze gently blowing between all of us, like the breath of the great spirit drawing us together and inspiring us to keep fighting for justice.

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my friends, regardless of your political beliefs or your religion or your sexual orientation or anything that makes us different, i honor that spirit that within you. that spirit within us all. because it is that spirit that makes us have more in common than not. i do not care that you agree with me on every issue. what i do care about is that together we join hands and work for justice for each other, and more importantly, for those who are the least, the last, and the lost. i care that we listen to each other. and that we respect each other. and i care that we seek ways to move forward, growing in love with every passing day.

justice, equality, & peace. for all of you out there.

* the 15th clinic located in asheville, has just has its license suspended, thereby making it possible that there will be no legal abortion clinics in the entire state. a dangerous thing, i believe.
** these are the opinions, thoughts, and reflections of belovelive and not meant to reflect the views of any other person or organization.
*** all photos are taken by elizabeth mcguire. please ask if you want to download or publish one yourself. contact elizabeth at elre74 at yahoo dot com.

an open letter and a plea to listen before you vote.

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everyone is entitled to their own opinion. i absolutely believe that.

but there are some things i simply, truly, truly, from the bottom of my heart, don’t understand…

how is it possible to treat other people as second-class citizens? how are some people better than others, worth more than others?

yeah. in one way i do understand… all of us are afraid of what we don’t know. and many times we are afraid to get to know what we don’t know. sometimes it’s easier to be ignorant. but education is the key. openness is the key. however, education & openness mean transformation, a willingness to be changed. a willingness to think, to face your own beliefs & perhaps, let them evolve.

i didn’t want to get political on my blog. i really tried not to. i haven’t mentioned the presidential race yet & all the issues and policies swirling about… until now. but i can’t stay quiet any longer. it’s too close. it’s too personal. it’s too emotional for me. yes, how you vote is your business, and i’m happy you (we) have the rights & privileges, as american citizens, to express ourselves through our vote. it’s important that we voice our opinions.

but, truly, right now, how you vote affects me directly. so i’m writing this post. i can’t hold it in any longer. i promise, i really tried to.

watching an obama rally live from sweden.

now, i’m not trying to win over any votes to my side, not at all. i respect that we all have differing opinions, because that’s one of the freedoms of a democratic society, a democratic process, isn’t it? a society where every. vote. counts. it’s the one time that the playing field is leveled, that all americans share the same right and opportunity.

i really am not trying to convince anyone of anything (ok. maybe a little. hehe.). i’m just asking you to listen. i’m just sayin’ that your vote actually directly affects my life. how this whole thing pans out determines so very much for me. not that it doesn’t affect & determine much for everybody. but right now, i’m living in the middle of discrimination. and depending on who is elected as president determines if i am liberated or still held captive. as a woman in love with & legally married (in sweden) to another woman, the fact is, how you vote affects my future.

perhaps this is an open letter, a plea, to all of those out there who think that i am not worthy. to all of those who do not want me to have the same rights,  who see me as different, as weird, as an outcast. well, i am not different, weird (yeah, in my own way, i’m weird), or an outcast. i am me. who i love does not change who i am. it does not affect my personality. who i love does make me a better person though.

i was once married to a man. i know divorced and now married to a woman. could i be more of a sinner? yes. that’s sarcasm. being married to that man for 9 years affected who i am (for good & for bad), but it did not change who i am. the liz who was married to a man is the same liz who is now married to a woman. my characteristics, traits, faults, gifts, talents, crazy, funny ways of being me did not change. the only thing that changed was how i feel about myself & how i live my life – as in, more free, more giving, more loving now. my wife has affected me – she has challenged me to care about myself, to love myself, to follow my dreams. she stands by me, and i stand by her. we fight the hard fights of life together. we laugh. we buy groceries. we plan trips. we talk about the future. we enjoy lazy saturday mornings. we cry together. we encourage each other. we give each other a spark in life. we are best friends. and we fall in love over & over again.

for those of you who don’t understand it, please just listen. there was once time in my life i didn’t understand it either… until i met others who were fighting to simply be in love & still be accepted, until i saw the struggles and pain that discrimination caused, until i engaged & talked to people who were in same-sex relationships. and then, it happened to me. and then, i understood the freedom that love can bring, and the pain that discrimination causes. and then i understood what it meant to truly, wholly, share life with another. while the person i love may be a woman, the love that we share is simply love. i promise you. it is not different. love is love.

and to think that there is possibility that i will continue to be unrecognized in my own country as a married person, that my wife & i are not worthy of the same rights as other people who live their lives day to day, just like us, makes me sick. it terrifies me. it angers me.

on top of that, what if we want to move to the states? can we do that? no. i am exiled from my home country because i am in love. let me say this one more time, my life with my wife is no different from a man & a woman’s daily married life. we do the same things, have the same problems, dream the same dreams of  life, liberty, & the pursuit of happiness.

can you imagine how it feels to not be welcome at a meeting because of who you love? to be banished to the corner of the room as an onlooker, but not a participant because of who i live with? or how it feels to be called to a career but “because of the rules” you cannot work where you once wanted to work? or how it feels to know that the day that i desire to move to the states, i have to leave my wife behind? that the option of moving & living together as a married couple in my home country does not even exist? or how it feels to be judged on who i love instead of who i am? 

it feels like shit.

like it or not, it is the same thing as judging someone on the color of their skin, instead of who they are. or the gender they are, instead of what they do/are. or how pretty & handsome & popular you are, instead of who you are. you see, all those external things are not who we really are. gender, race, physical ability or disability, nationality, who we love – they do not define us. no, my friends, who we are comes from inside us. who we are comes from our souls.

so, as i see it, there are two choices in this presidential election. one who understands this & one who doesn’t. now, i don’t agree with everything from either one of them. and i know that there are tons of other very important issues & policies to responsibly consider; but i know that one candidate will make sure that i remain unwelcome and an outcast, not because i have broken a law or because i am a bad citizen, but because i am in love. and the other one… well, he gives me hope that things can & will change. he gives me hope that we will move forward.

and that one day i (we), and so many other like us, can come home.

feel how you want to feel about same-sex relationships. believe what you want to believe (and that’s a whole other blog post i could do from a theological/biblical perspective). but, just listen to my plea, my cry. i am not dangerous. i am not weird. i am competent, and i have a lot to offer. i am a writer, a photographer, a sister, a daughter, a theologian, a traveler, a giggler, a seeker. my wife is all these things too, and more. we are not scary. we are not horrible people. and we do not deserve to be outcasts.

vote however you want, but just be willing to listen to others. engage people who are different than you – all kinds of people who are different than you… the poor, the other race, the same-sex couple, the elderly, the homeless, the single mother, the runaway. meet them all. talk with them all. find out about them as people, not labels. and then, and only then, make your judgement. make your choice.

and make your voice heard.

many blessings of peace to you all, no matter who you love.

thursday’s top ten.

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i snatched this from facebook. one of my former seminary professors posted it on his wall. he’s one of the ones who taught me so much during my master’s degree studies to be a minister/pastor. guess what classes i had with him? theology & ethics. yep. i remember sitting in his class, as it was truly with ALL of my classes… i realized for the first time that i was not the only liberal theologian/minister out there. i felt like i always took liberal theology too far. then i went to seminary. and it felt great to be backed up & understood & challenged even further by brilliant professors.

you see, all of us church people aren’t so bad, stupid, closed-minded, and conservative. we’re not bible beaters trying to save souls, but estabish relationships and work together. there are plenty of us who believe in inclusion, healing, equality, and diversity. and all we really wanna do is just co-exist and respect each and every person. just as they are. and by the way, i believed what i believe now before i had any clue i’d end up marrying a woman. just so you know.

peace out peeps.