Mega Preacher Punk'd

In the last few months, we've received so much feedback from the public about our social experiment project / documentary film. We started noticing a pattern of the word "punk'd" being used to describe our experiment. We thought it would be fun to apply that word to the title of this blog entry.

Here's a sneak peek of "Faith of the Abomination". Stay tuned... the best is yet to come.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Pulpit Persecution

persecute vt. to afflict constantly as to injure or distress, as for reasons of religion, race, etc. persecution n.

In doing research for our social experiment project at Victory Christian Center Austin, we discovered an uncanny parallel between persecuted Christians and the lesbian, gay, bi and transgendered community; we have all suffered persecution because of bad religion.

Having been raised in the Christian faith ourselves, and having reconciled the afflictions of our religious upbringing with our sexual orientation, Ceil and I shuddered at the idea of voluntarily throwing ourselves back into the CLOSET, for the sake of finding answers through this experiment. For too long, our people have suffered in silence, persecuted from the pulpits, while asked by their church leaders to give money for people elsewhere in the world to live the way God intended - freely.

With great zeal, Evangelical church leaders encourage their congregations to support missionaries with their offerings. In fact, they are staunch supporters of the Bush doctrine of spreading democracy and religious freedom around the world at whatever the cost.

The sad irony is these Evangelical leaders fail to see that they themselves perpetrate the very same religious persecution and intolerance toward people who are not like them. Hundreds of thousands of our LGBT people have lost their families, their churches, and their lives because of religious persecution and condemnation. This is completely contrary to their "pro-life" doctrine, and like the horrendous act of throwing salt on an open wound, these intolerant and hate-filled institutions are rewarded by our government with tax exempt status... go figure!

A Deal with the Devil

In our covert investigation conducted at Victory Christian Center (VCC) in Austin, TX, we collected mounting evidence of how the Republican political strategy is employed from the Bush/Rove White House on down to their base of conservative Evangelical churches.

David Barton, Vice-chairman of the Texas GOP and founder of an organization called Wallbuilders, was invited to be the guest speaker at both of VCC's Sunday morning worship services on August 20, 2006. According to Pastor Lee Boss' introduction of David Barton to the congregation, he's "been used by God to touch more elected officials in this nation over any other organization." Armed with old-time bibles, a swanky PowerPoint presentation, and much jibber-jabber, Barton mobilizes the Evangelical Christians to the polls by replacing the word "voting" with "stewardship". He concludes by telling us that Republican political candidates are the obvious choice in our stewardship if we are concerned with biblical issues.

Karl Rove understands the conservative Evangelical voices are a powerful and very well organized tax exempt, money making machine for the Republican party. As long as these Evangelical church leaders have an insatiable appetite for power and influence, Rove will continue to use them to succeed on his mission of establishing a permanent Republican majority. Watch how all the Republican Presidential candidates are scrambling in a tizzy to court the Evangelical / Religious Right vote. It's funny to see the conservatives salivating at the bit, waiting for the next self-righteous politician with the right outside package that they can rally behind. Ever notice how the GOP have to beat up on a minority group of people in order to rally their base? How Christian or Christ-like is that?

God, Gays, and the Sanctity of Marriage

Husbands, love your wives. Wives, respect your husbands because of the position God has ordained for him, not whether you think he deserves it or not. Now turn your bibles to Ephesians 5:21-33 to see what "God" (Paul, actually - not God) has to say about keeping your marriage blessed. - This is a paraphrased excerpt of a six-week series taught by Pastor Lee in the mainstream Evangelical church we infiltrated and investigated as CL and Cammy Morrison.

Ironically, on the Sunday the Pastor began the marriage series, we witnessed on our way to church, a display of "the sanctity of marriage" the Conservatives so righteously fight for. About five blocks away from the church, I noticed a Latino man roughing up a woman. There was also a young girl with them; she looked between 5 or 6 years old. I immediately told Ceil and we pulled into the parking lot where this abuse was taking place. Remember, we were in our characters, so CL, in a deep voice hollered, "Hey!" at the guy as we pulled up beside them. I picked up our cell phone and asked if I needed to call the police. He froze and looked at us, then made it obvious to us that he didn't speak English. Cammy asked the woman, "Is he hurting you? You need help?" She replied in broken English, "No, no; he's my husband", and proceeded to turn and start walking. The little girl, wide-eyed with fright, soon followed beside her mother. The man ceased roughing up his wife and walked slightly behind them. We continued to watch for her safety, and especially the little girl's, until they were out of sight.

I couldn't help but wonder if our characters' appearances that day, as male and female, didn't help a little in this particular situation. Ceil and I, as two females, would have confronted the situation all the same, but I would venture to guess that had it been the case, the abusive man would have reacted differently toward two women than he did with CL and Cammy.

The Pastor prefaced his marriage teachings with his explanation of Adam and Eve. He taught that God is both male and female. In the beginning, God created Adam both male and female as well. Then God wanted to bless Adam with a "help-mate", so God took the female characteristics out of Adam and made Eve. God intended for the man and woman, together through marriage, to be a manifestation of both the female and male attributes of God.

Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but most lesbian, gay, and transgendered people we know are keenly aware of both the female and male attributes we were created with. In fact, most of us celebrate that gift of versatility and diversity.

So according to this Evangelical Pastor's teachings about male and female and Adam and Eve, the impending question is... are homosexuals and transgendered people created more like God than heterosexuals?

Looking for Answers

Utter frustration and defeat was what Ceil and I felt after we left the first Evangelical church in 2005. Lamenting over the injustices and questioning the purpose of it all eventually lead us on a deep search for the Truth.

Would we have been treated differently and accepted as part of the church family had we been heterosexual? Would we have had opportunities to minister had we been males in that organization? Would those people have taken time to know us had there been no walls of religious doctrine separating us from them? Sadly, the answer to those questions were YES for both of us.

At this point, however, that was only our assumption and opinion, and not our truth. Neither one of us had ever experienced life as male nor heterosexual. With a burning passion and conviction to find Truth, we embarked on a social experiment to get some answers. Ceil and I would alter our physical appearances and become what we perceived as "acceptable" by church leadership standards. We wanted to see if the Evangelical church would get to know us and connect with us, perhaps even love us, if we looked and acted just like them.

It was unbelievable, some of the things we witnessed and experienced as a man and woman inside the inner circle of a powerful Evangelical church. It's all recorded in the documentary. The most heart-breaking truth we discovered is the fact that many religious leaders in both communities, gay and straight, have lost sight of the most noble purpose of humanity - to build up one another through love.

The Evangelical Blow

Shortly following the 2004 National election, Ceil and I started becoming ostracized by the Senior Pastor of a mainstream Evangelical church we called home for over a year. To our dismay, we witnessed the rampant increase in godless, homophobic rhetoric in the months leading up to the election from Christian TV networks such as Paul and Jan Crouch's TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network) and Pat Robertson's CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network). However, we never imagined that we'd feel the blow of the "morality" vote in such a personal manner as we did at our own home church.

We had regular, private meetings with the Pastor because he wanted to be educated about homosexuals, and to have open dialogue about our presence in his church. Though we made good progress in these private meetings with the Pastor, the leadership of that church was never given the queue to fully welcome us. Most kept their distance. In fact, the Pastor's wife never shook our hands the entire time we were there.

After the national empowerment of the Evangelicals in late 2004 / early 2005, the Pastor began to distance himself from us. His warm greetings grew colder with each encounter, and the eye contact soon faded completely. Sensing the change in his treatment of us, we called twice to try to schedule a meeting with him. Both attempts were ignored with no return call. In the last sermon we heard him preach, the Pastor spoke on morality, and said if those living in sin would come down to the altar and repent, God would change their DNA, and they can become part of the body of Christ. Giving him the full benefit of the doubt, we tried one more time after that sermon to set up a meeting with the Pastor. Again we were ignored. We concluded that our goal of reconciliation with this "spirit-filled" church had come to an abrupt end.

If this "man of God" no longer wanted open lesbians and gays as members of his congregation, why didn't he have the conviction or the sac to stand up and defend his beliefs? We have our ideas, but what do you think?

More on Deception

While we're on the topic of deception, it's only fair that we bring in concerns from the mainstream Evangelical perspective.

About three weeks after our public coming out in the Evangelical Organization, a woman we befriended at the church sent us an email. Here's an excerpt from the email: "Ladies, Now that the initial shock is over, I can sit down and write you. I understand that you guys were trying to prove a point but you don't prove points with deception. I don't love you any less than what I did but I can't condone your lifestyle no matter how I look at it. To be able to be a deceiver also makes it possible to be deceived."

Based on her theory that being a deceiver makes it possible to be deceived, does that mean that the entire leadership and members of that congregation, including herself, are deceivers as well, since they all believed that we were who we said we were? Hhhhmmm.... In her judgement for us, our friend didn't realize how close she came to the truth that there are countless church leaders who deceive the masses and then take up an offering. It's not the believers who corrupt religion, but the leaders who teach HATE and separation in the name of God, only to build their own empires.

The email closes with, "Just remember this one thing, if you guys are right and we are wrong we will still end up being together in heaven. But if we are right and you are wrong we will not be together ever again." Here's a classic example of the ill-effects of organized religion, teaching "us against them", and everyone argues over who's more anointed. What a tragedy.

Deception - Topic of Concern

While the film is in post production, Ceil and I have conducted focus group meetings to unveil our project and discuss our findings. Many of the focus group participants are from the GLBT community of faith; however, we've received highly positive feedback from a diverse group of mainstream Americans in regards to the content and storyline of this documentary film.

One element of concern raised among focus group participants active in their faith communities is the issue of deception. Indeed, we acknowledge that portions of our experimental project involved deceiving this Evangelical church into thinking we're somebody other then who we truly are. We'd learned, based on our previous experiences with another Evangelical church that we attended for over a year as two open lesbian ministers, that people, especially and including "men and women of God", are geared to judge others based on their outside packages. We theorized that our experience at the first Evangelical church would have been totally different, better, had we been a heterosexual couple. The only way we would find the Truth for ourselves would be to experience the Evangelical Organization as man and woman.

As you will see documented in Faith of the Abomination, striving to maintain our own spiritual health and balance throughout this project proved to be one of the most difficult challenges we endured. The irony for us is that the concern about our deception was predominantly raised from the GLBT community of faith. Every person who is gay or lesbian understands what it's like to have to pretend to be someone we're not in order to preserve the feelings of someone we love.

We understood that undertaking this project would include answering for the controversy; however, it was all we were left with to try to find a solution to all the HATE and division propagated by "men of God" in their "houses of God". Did the end justify the means of searching for the Truth? You decide.