Soulforce is a group that is trying to end religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. The group was founded by the Rev. Mel White.
Right now, Soulforce has fifty young adults going around the country, on two separate buses as part of its Equality Ride, which will visit 32 different Christian colleges and universities, all of which have no policy affirming LGBT students or faculty, and engaging the schools in a constructive dialogue. Many schools do not want this attention and have banned the group, and will arrest them as soon as they step onto school property. Many of the riders have already been arrested.
Many of the participants are blogging the event with text and video, and it is definitely worth checking out their journey as it unfurls.
Here are some excerpts from their journey so far:
Dan Seda at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Kansas: "I was just waiting for Fred Phelps to come along with one of his famous signs. But, that never happened. What did end up happening were a lot of hugs, a few tears, and a lot of love. We eventually got onto the bus and reluctantly said goodbye to the campus we called home for a day. All in all, I realized that assumptions might be the root of all evil, if you believe in that sort of thing. The only way to fully live is to learn to love in a way that includes rather than excludes."
Vince Pancucci at Oklahoma Baptist University: "Right when we were about to board the bus, several students from OBU showed up to converse and get to know us. It was a wonderful hour of conversation, as they were very open to our visit and wanted to get to know us and ask questions about the ride. It was the "worth it" moment of the day, as many of the riders were frustrated by the administration's response to us today and yesterday. We walked away from the conversation having made some friends and hoped that they would be the ones to be the allies on campus, who would love and affirm those who are closeted because of the policies of exclusion OBU supports."
Delfin Bautista reflects between tour stops: "As a person who has struggled with his relationship with his mother and family since coming out, it was refreshing to have the parents of PFLAG prepare lunch for us. They welcomed us, affirmed us, and were eager to hear stories of our experiences thus far on the Ride and of our lives outside the Ride. It was simply a nice, warm place to be-to be reminded that there are people who will love us, care for us, feed us, and be parents to us when our own parents reject us."
Dean Genth on day one at Oklahoma Baptist University: "When we approached the chapel, the administration greeted us with armed policemen and handcuffs. Each Rider was read a statement making it clear that we were not welcome on campus and that setting one more foot toward chapel would subject us to arrest. The first five Riders listened to the statement, nodded solemnly, then stepped forward, toward chapel, with Bibles in hand. They were arrested."
Kelsey Pacha at Wisconsin Lutheran College: "I felt pretty good about my conversation with Gloria. I emphasized that being a Christian and being openly gay are not mutually exclusive, and shared how my current relationship with my girlfriend has been one of the most positive and generative experiences I've had, and has made my relationship with God stronger. Though we may not have changed their minds on the spot, I definitely think we made them realize that we are intimately familiar with scripture and have fervently thought about/prayed about our sexuality with the Divine. It's always amazing to open people's minds simply by showing them our humanity!"
Emily Van Kley on Milwaukee's jails: "The floors and walls were painted hospital beige. The waiting benches were long and cold with bars running along the front of them so that one of your hands could be cuffed to them while you waited. The chairs, where there were chairs, were bolted to the floor. One officer took my information and then another. I was led to a holding cell with one long cement bench along the side, and a stainless steel toilet/sink combination against the far wall. The door in front of me had a thin, high window through which officers would peek occasionally, sometimes saying my name or sliding a paper for me to sign through the slot in the middle of the door, sometimes just looking and going away. None of them explained why they were there or how much longer I'd be waiting. They just came and went and I sat."
Brandy Daniels at Central Bible College: "Spending a few hours in jail and having a misdemeanor on my record is a small price to pay for a cause that I believe in so much. I am not the James in the school whose heart breaks every time he hears someone says something negative about his (closeted) identity, who has to deal with his friends gay jokes, who thinks he will marry a girl just because it is the thing to do. I am not the Jessica who hangs herself in her dorm room because she cannot seem to reconcile her sexual identity with her Christian faith, and cannot deal with the pain of trying to. I am not the Joey who is interrogated and than expelled from school due to his homosexual orientation, or the Brittany who gets kicked out of the navy for being in a relationship with a female. It is most definitely worth it and I will continue to be willing to be arrested until Brittany can date a girl without fear and Jessica is not in an environment that makes her think life is not worth living."
Kourt Osborn at Wisconsin Lutheran College: "I thought about what I needed to prepare my mind for the long mental day. I thought of my family. I thought of my friends. I thought of the family members I hadn't yet met. I thought of all the people I knew that committed suicide because they couldn't reconcile their faith and identity. I thought this would be enough to keep me focused throughout the day without getting antsy or distracted. It wasn't."
Amy Brainer-Medellin at Notre Dame: "Given the apathy and the absence of space, did we do something - anything - important at Notre Dame? I think of the myriad of students who expressed shock that their school would take such drastic measures to avoid a conversation about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality. For these students, and for the friends with whom they share their surprise, a bit of the apathy has chipped away. LGBT equality is no longer perceived to be a non-issue at Notre Dame."
For more information on the Equality Ride, visit their website to stay on top of the frequent updates.