History and time will give us the answers
By: Paul P. Jesep*/TRT Columnist—
The last two years of our national politics can be described as unsettling. Independent of what is experienced as a community; there are personal challenges unique to each family and individual.
I’m always looking for a lesson from a national tragedy or personal crisis. Will I, or the nation, benefit from a new perspective? What good can come from something sad, bad, or unjust? If there’s a lesson, it may take many years for the revelation.
History is a great teacher. At the moment it occurs there appears to be no lesson. The passage of time is required. Sometimes you just leave it to a higher power and believe the Cosmos unfolds as intended, and truth and justice eventually prevails.
Consider the ministry of a man one hundred years ago.
OutHistory.org describes Presbyterian minister Carl Schlegel as the first “known homosexual emancipation activist.” Schlegel immigrated to the United States in the late 1800s. He attended seminary here and was ordained in America as a Protestant minister.
By the way, if you’re not familiar with Outhistory.org, founded by Jonathan Ned Katz, you’re missing out on an invaluable resource. It’s especially useful for those interested in or who write about LGBTQ history.
In 1905, according to Katz, a New York church fired Rev. Schlegel “probably for promoting … homosexual emancipation ideas and literature.” Katz also reported two years later the Minutes of the Presbytery of New Orleans found Rev. Schlegel violated church teachings.
Minutes from 1907, record that the church’s governing body determined that Rev. Schlegel engaged in “the lawfulness and naturalness of the condition, and in some cases of the actual practice of homo-sexualism, Sodomy, or Uranism.” Rev. Schlegel wanted the same laws applied equally and fairly to every citizen regardless of sexual orientation.
He’s quoted as having said to church leaders during the trial, “Let the same laws for all the intermediate stages of sexual life: the homosexuals, heterosexuals, bisexuals, asexuals, be legal as they are now in existence for the heterosexuals …”
Unfortunately, large gaps still exist about this early Christian-gay pioneer. How did Rev. Schlegel come to his conclusions within the context of scripture? Today, there are many LGBTQ theologians providing scriptural analysis justifying civil and human rights. Rev. Schlegel may have envisioned the inevitable revelation of Christianity.
Declaring something to be God’s truth, as Evangelicals often do, doesn’t make it the truth. No matter how many times a lie, misconception, or biblical misinterpretation is repeated, doesn’t make it valid or accurate.
It’s one of the lessons from Rev. Schlegel’s life.
Ultimately, truth and justice do prevail, though it may take time. Although forgotten until Katz’s scholarship, Rev. Schlegel planted seeds. The Protestant minister made a difference. Over a century later we now have the benefit of his wisdom, courage, and determination.
Think back twenty-five years. Go back further back to the time of Rev. Schlegel. Compare it with today. Will there be delays or some setbacks for civil and human rights? Probably. Overall, progress. In one era, it may be three steps forward and one or two backward. The sun will always rise. Long-term progress will be made.
You can think about your own life the same way. Reflect on some crisis and how you pushed on. At times it’s important to stay focused on the “big picture” and long-term, while not always living in the moment.
The anxiety many are experiencing due to the national social and political climate will pass. Hope, kindness, patience, persistence, and living your truth are some of the cornerstones of the new day whether as a community or individual. Gratefulness and belief in a better tomorrow is a form of prayer.
*Paul is a personal chaplain, seminary trained priest, and lawyer in greater Albany, NY. He’s also the author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis.” He can be reached at Dilovod@aol.com.