Churches and religious groups need to work to unify people, not divide them, and a large part of that means to accepting LGBTI people.
That’s the message from John Lewis, who represents Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives.
He’s been a staunch LGBTI ally for his 30 years in Congress and even long before that when he was working on civil rights alongside Dr. Martin Luther King.
‘The church needs to learn and understand that there is not any room in our society, or any society, to discriminate against someone because of sexual orientation,’ the 77-year-old Lewis told LGBTQ Nation.
The former Atlanta City Councilman said it is important for religious people to understand that LGBTI people are part of the human family.
‘People shouldn’t discriminate against someone who is gay or put someone down,’ he says. ‘Many of the members in our churches, in our religious institutions, are gay.’
‘The church is supposed to preach the gospel of love, the gospel of peace, the gospel of sisterhood and brotherhood, that we are one family, that we all live in the same house, not just an American house but a world house.’
He likes to quote Dr. King, who espoused, ‘Learn to live together as brothers as sisters. If not, we’ll perish as fools.’
Race relations will improve
Although racial tensions in America are high these days, Lewis reminds how far race relations have come. When he was growing up in a small town in Alabama, Jim Crow laws were still in effect.
Lewis was one of the people who helped bring about that change, working on civil rights in the 1960s.
In fact, he was one of the people who helped organize that 1965 march across the Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Protesters were beaten and tear-gassed by police. Lewis still has scars from a skull fracture he suffered that day.
But as they say, he persisted, even after King was assassinated. He remains hopeful the future will be better, even if change isn’t coming as quickly as some would like.
‘It’s a constant struggle for us to redeem the soul of America. During the movement, we called it “a beloved community.” I believe we will get there,’ says Lewis who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama in 2011.
‘I think many members of the gay community today are playing a major role in helping us get there, along with women’s groups, young people, children.’
He believes children are the hope for the future.
‘[Children] will help us get there, to lay down the burden of sexism, bigotry, hate, anti-Semitism. We will get there. I’m very optimistic.’