Sunday, June 30, 2013

From a Gay Salvationist


So, post-graduate life has swallowed me whole; combined with Doctor Who marathons, whose awesomeness I am just discovering. Life has been hectic of late. But, since it’s thanksgiving weekend in Canada, I now have some time to relax and catch up with this blog. One of the reasons I started Gay Salvationist was to give some insight into life as a gay guy to straight people who would otherwise not have this experience. This means sharing both the good, and not-so-good, aspects of gay life.

If you hang around gay circles long enough, especially in the single and dating world, you will hear the term ‘straight-acting’ tossed around from time to time. What is ‘straight-acting’ you may ask? Definitions will vary, but you can either define it as someone who behaves in a stereotypically straight way or in a way that is opposite to the stereotypically gay guys. It isn’t a guy who is closeted, but simply someone who appears to be straight. When you think of a stereotypically gay-acting guy, what characteristics come to mind to you? For me it’s someone who talks with a lisp, lets his hands go limp, wears tight-fitting and fashionable clothing, is only interested culturally in Lady Gaga and design reality shows, etc. A straight-acting gay guy will rock out to heavy metal, dressed in an outfit he threw on in the morning, while on his way to pummel a guy at an MMA fight. Two very different people with two very different ways of life united by the fact that they are both gay.

I have been accused, much to my chagrin, in the past of being ‘straight-acting.’ I can understand why, since there are no ‘tell-tale signs’ of my orientation in day to day life. In my room, right now, I literally have only one shirt hanging up. The rest of my clothes go from the floor, to the laundry room to a hamper in my bedroom. I’m currently making my way through the second season of the Walking Dead and am counting down the days until The Rescues come out with their new album. None of this is in an effort for me to appear straighter, and honestly I get insulted when people assume it is. When I order butter chicken in a restaurant, it isn’t in an effort to appear ‘more Indian,’ it’s because that stuff is freaking delicious. I am comfortable enough in my own identity and sexuality to rock out to some ABBA then follow it with Dragonforce. As a very good friend once told me, paraphrasing Popeye, “I am what I am, and that’s all that I am. You may not like who I am, but I really don’t care…”

When you look at the terms ‘gay-acting’ and ‘straight-acting’ most people focus on the gay or straight where they should really be concerned about the acting part. I can’t speak for everyone, but I do know a few people who only claim to like something or act a certain way because they are expected to. And, in my own humble opinion, I think those guys who insist on only dating men who act like straight guys are still battling some internalized homophobia. I couldn’t see myself dating someone who refused to go to a lacrosse game because ‘that’s what straight people do’ or wouldn’t want to go see Wicked because ‘that’s what gay people do.’ I’m fine with seeing someone whose wardrobe consists of solely flannel or who feels the need to wear eye shadow every day as long as that’s who they really are and they’re open to trying new things.

A bit of a shout-out to my Mom, who reminded me of this verse, Philippians 4:11 “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” A big part of learning to be comfortable with being gay is seeing how to integrate it into your life. Whether I’m in gay circles or straight circles I know I have plenty to talk about with anyone. If someone claims to be acting a certain way, who are they really?


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Being Gay is Not a Sin!

Let's get one thing straight: it is not a sin to be gay. There, I said it. And after you are done condemning or applauding me, maybe we can start to have a conversation on this. Being gay is not a sin.
I'm not talking about gay sex or even relationships- we can leave that to other writers in other articles. This is about simply being gay, as in being attracted to the same sex whether or not those attractions are acted upon.
I have seen gay friends hurt by those who supposedly represent Christ. I have seen the damage done by ex-gay movements. I have seen good people forced to live a lie every day for fear of what the Christians around them would think--if they knew the truth. The Bride of Christ can be a real shrew.
I think it is time for us to recognize that people do not choose their sexuality.

Maybe it's genetics or upbringing or some combination (and so much of who we are is due to both nature and nurture) but it is difficult to deny that people do not consciously choose. Whether we are attracted to the same sex, opposite sex or both, it was already decided before we found out that girls (or boys) have "cooties".
This isn't my idea, there is a growing body of research that supports this conclusion. Besides, what else can explain the countless gay Christians who long to be "delivered" from their "affliction"?  Why would anyone choose to be ostracized and rejected by the community of believers they cherish? And yet it happens.
Ex-gay programs and movements have been shown to be harmful on every level. Men and women who claim to be delivered have simply learned to live a straight life, when pressed, they admit that the same-sex attraction remains. And that is a best case scenario! These "ministries" have contributed to an alarming number of suicides among gay Christians.
The Salvation Army has a mission to love people that nobody else would love. We should have been first in line to welcome the LGBT community into our corps and institutions. Instead, we are known for an anti-gay stance that seriously hinders our ability to reach individuals who need our love and acceptance.
How can we fix this? By recognizing that being gay is not a sin. It is possible to be a gay follower of Christ. We can continue to discuss the issues related to gay sex and relationships and we certainly should. But in the meantime, let us learn to love and accept the people all around us who have been shunned by the church. Let the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit enable you and me to love with the love of Christ. Love everyone. 

-Active Officer, USA East
Married with children
(name on file)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Remember: We Are Discussing Real People – Not Academic Concepts PART THREE of THREE

Psychology and the Lived Experience

There is an old saying used by many cultures that goes something like this ‘do not judge a person until you have walked for a time in their shoes’.  It is easy to safely discuss this issue from an academic perspective.  We can easily look at our own lives, and conclude that we can’t imagine how anyone could react like that – therefore, it must be wrong.  The fallacy here is explained in Piaget’s ‘Theory of Mind’.  

Basically, Piaget argues that we begin thinking that because we can see something or understand something, everyone else can see it or understand it.  As we mature, we begin to realise that what we see or understand may be unique to us, and so we need to try to see the situation from another’s perspective.  This is ‘Theory of mind’ – the ability to understand that others have a different experience or ‘mind’ apart from our own.

Academically, we can say that God is Omnipotent, and therefore He can change anyone if we allow Him to, so the LGBT person just needs to have enough faith that God will change them.  The problem is that God doesn’t change anyone from gay to straight – never has.  Why is that?  Again, we could argue that it is God allowing us to be tempted so that we can prove His strength in us in overcoming temptation.  Yet in the lived experience, this does not hold true.  Instead, such teaching leads to depression, suicide, murder, violence, family destruction etc.  I know of no situation where this has not been the result.  Again, perhaps we need to change our argument to fit with reality – not try to change God or people.  We are not God that we can change people, and we are certainly not superior to God that we can claim to understand God in His entirety.  One of the ways we divine if something is from God or not is to look at the fruit it bears.  Is destruction, murder, violence, depression, suicide etc, the fruit one would expect from Godly teaching?

Marriage has two dimensions – a legal and a religious dimension.  In some countries, the two are intertwined, but in others, they are totally separate.  Governments legislating to legalise gay marriage has nothing to do with the religious dimension of marriage.  But even here, we need to honestly look at the issue, and ask whether or not we should allow it in a religious context as well. Allowing same sex couples to marry will have no impact on the marriage of heterosexuals. 

Heterosexuals will not be forced to marry members of the same sex as a result of allowing same sex couples to marry.  Heterosexual couples will be no less married by allowing same sex couples to marry.  What it does mean is that Heterosexuals will no longer be able to claim to be superior to homosexuals.  They will no longer be able to treat homosexuals as inferior people.  They will no longer be able to deny homosexuals the same rights and privileges that they enjoy.

But isn’t it a choice?
The common argument that being LGBT is a choice is incorrect.  Let me ask this question of the heterosexuals – When did you choose to be heterosexual?  If you are honest, the answer will be ‘I didn’t’.  It is the same for those who are LGBT.  What they do choose is to be honest and to act with integrity as to who they are.  The sin is rejecting yourself as you were created to be.  A person chooses how they act – they can’t choose what they are.  A black person can’t wake up and decide he is going to be white today, not can a white person wake up and decide she is going to be black today.  Sexuality is the same.

LGBT is part of the sinful nature – and is no different to any other sin

A middle ground in the discussion is to look at the LGBT issue as no different from any other sin, and say that we allow people practicing so many other sins into the church and leadership, why single out this one?  We just need to require them to be celibate if they want to live a holy life.  Whilst this is a step towards inclusion, it is still incorrect and hurtful.  As stated above, sexuality is not a choice.  Our sexuality is not defined by our actions, but by who we are.  In contrast, we can say that a gossip is defined by their choice to gossip, and a thief is defined by their choice to steal.  

Our sexuality has little to do with how we choose to behave.  A heterosexual is still heterosexual whether they are in a relationship or not.   Likewise, a gay person is still gay whether they are celibate or not.  We cannot compare sexuality with sinful actions.  One is who we are, the other is what we do.  We cannot therefore call acting in a way consistent with who we are sinful.  Our sinful nature inclines us to commit sinful acts, but acting in a manner consistent with who we are is not sinful.  In fact, the opposite is true.  If a homosexual were required to either deny their homosexuality, or act in a manner inconsistent with who they are as a homosexual person, that is sinful.  Promiscuity is a sinful expression of sexual desire.  Being in a committed relationship that is consistent with who one is, is not sinful.  Integrity is never sinful.

The LGBT issue is not a Theological or academic issue.  It is a real life issue with real people.  The consequences of our actions and our thoughts and our discussions are profoundly significant.  We are talking about real people with real faces and real emotions – not abstract concepts.  Let us examine this issue carefully, and with an open mind, remembering the real people involved.  Let us examine the fruit of our discussions – as this will inform us as to whether we are being guided by God or not.  

How can anything that is guided by God cause destruction?

Part three of Three

Graeme Randall
Former officer Australia
Living in London

Remember: We Are Discussing Real People – Not Academic Concepts PART TWO

I doubt many parents take their children back to the hospital and say ‘put it back, I want another one.  This one is defective.  It’s not behaving at all like the books say it’s supposed to’.  Likewise, none of us can say to God ‘please blow up the world and start again – this world isn’t behaving the way it’s supposed to’, nor can we say ‘I want another God, this God doesn’t understand me’.  Rather than try to re-write scripture, or re-write the world, or change people, we need to change our perspective and understanding so that it fits with reality.  We need to take a look at the reality, and see if what we understand fits with the reality – instead of trying to force reality to fit our understanding.

If we fail to do this, then the results are often devastating.  A doctor who clings to old medical practices risks his patients dying.  When we cling to the old arguments against those in the LGBT community, then we risk disastrous results.  People are forced to live in depression, people are subjected to injustice, violence is perpetrated, people are murdered, lives torn apart, families destroyed.  This is the reality.  No amount of theoretical discussion or belief can change that reality.  We need to take a serious look at the arguments regarding the LGBT issue and question the long-held beliefs.  Ask ourselves if they measure up to reality.  If they don’t, then are we worshiping a made up god that has no power?  A god that has no relationship to the real world?  Are we then just no more than delusional people?  Here are some thoughts to consider.

The bible has surprisingly little to say on anything that might remotely be considered homosexual – and nothing to say (either for or against) homosexuality as we understand it today.  When we correctly translate and exegete those ‘clobber’ passages of scripture, we find that they are talking about something entirely different.  

We need to understand that scripture was not written in English in the 19th and 20th centuries.  It was written in a different language, in a different time, and in a different culture.  Our stance on many issues that were once considered scriptural has changed markedly over the years.  Examples of such are women in the church, child rearing, slavery, marriage (remember – the bible advocates child brides and polygamy) etc.  If we can put these into context and see the cultural background to these passages, why can’t we do the same with the LGBT issue?  Is it because many people can’t understand how two people of the same sex can love each other?  We can still keep the Bible as the pre-eminent source of our faith and affirm same sex relationships.

End Part Two

Graeme Randall
Former officer Australia
Living in London

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Remember: We Are Discussing Real People – Not Academic Concepts PART ONE

My last appointment as a Salvation Army Officer, was in the Rehabilitation Command – working with addicts of all description.  One of the common phrases that was used constantly in that environment was ‘the addicts definition of insanity – repeating the same behaviours and actions over and over again, expecting a different result’. 

Often there are times when I think people exhibit that same definition of insanity in their discussions.  The LGBT issue being one of them.  We talk around and around and around on the same arguments, slowly chipping away at each other.   

Occasionally someone is persuaded by one argument or another, and is encouraged to look at the topic from a different perspective.  However, one of the main factors causing people to change their views is when they are forced to look at the subject beyond the academic, theoretical, and Theological perspective.  This often happens when either they themselves are forced to confront their own sexuality, or a close family member comes out.  In such situations, they cannot keep an arms distance and stay theoretical.  Let me give an example from a different field – parenting.

I look at my own family – I am the eldest of four children.  I notice a great difference between the way I was raised and the way my youngest sibling was raised.  I notice the same differences in other families.  I notice that people with no children often seem to have all the answers about how to raise children, and are often highly critical of parents.  I notice that when people are expecting their first child, they read all the books about child rearing they can, and think they are now experts, and know what to expect.  I then notice that when their first child does come, they throw most of those books out the window.  Being confronted with the reality is very different to discussing it theoretically and in rehearsed scenarios.

The same can be said of any situation in life.  Academic study simply gives us tools by which we can engage the reality – if appropriate.  Our academic understanding needs to be moulded by reality.  We cannot change the reality of life, but we can change the experience of life by adapting our understanding to the reality of life.

For something like child rearing, this is a no brainer.  The consequences are obvious and immediate.  However, with situations like the LGBT issue, the consequences are often argued to be far more ethereal and eternal.  It is a debate that strikes at the very heart of who we are as an individual.  And here we begin to see the complexity of the debate.  The complexity of the LGBT debate is not about how to interpret scripture, or what is sin.  The complexity lies in the fact that the debate strikes at the very core of who we understand ourselves to be.

Our world is full of situations where we are forced to be flexible.  We constantly change our perspective and understanding on a myriad of issues and practices and beliefs.  If something isn’t working at work, we change it.  If a practice doesn’t work at home, we change it.  As we grow, our tastes change, so we change our diet, we change our environment, we make concessions for our partners/ spouses/ family/ friends etc etc etc.  

Our world is full of constant change.  Even our personalities constantly change.  Psychology has all but given up the study of personality, realising that there is no stable, unchanging aspect of who we are that moulds us.  The problem is, as humans, we like – and need – something that doesn’t change.  We need stability.  For many of us, that comes in the form of our beliefs.  When we are asked to consider change in our beliefs, then that last bastion of stability, of stable ground, is ripped from under us.  We can’t cope.

As a result, we cling to what we know.  We fight with all our might to hold firm to that stable ground.  But when we are forced to confront it – such as when we or a loved one grapple with it – we realise that what we thought was stable ground is not stable, and never was.  We need to find a new source of stability.  We need to find a new way of incorporating our life experiences with our knowledge.  Sometimes that means discarding some of what we thought we knew and replacing it with something that fits with reality – like when a parent discards what they thought they knew about child rearing and replaces it with something that works in their situation, or when a doctor replaces what they thought they knew about medicine with some new practice that starts to bring about healing.

End Part One

Graeme Randall
Former officer Australia
Living in London

MOM I'M GAY! Conclusion

Suddenly our fear of Ryan someday having a boyfriend (a possibility that honestly terrified me) seemed trivial in contrast to our fear of Ryan’s death, especially in light of his recent rejection of Christianity, and his mounting anger at God.

Ryan started with weed and beer…but in six short months was using cocaine, crack and heroin. He was hooked from the beginning, and his self-loathing and rage at God only fueled his addiction. Shortly after, we lost contact with him. For the next year and a half we didn’t know where he was, or even if he was dead or alive. And during that horrific time, God had our full attention. We stopped praying for Ryan to become straight. We started praying for him to know that God loved him. We stopped praying for him never to have a boyfriend. We started praying that someday he’d come back to Jesus. We even stopped praying for him to come home to us…we only wanted him to come home to God.

By the time our son called us, after 18 long months of silence, God had completely changed our perspective. Because Ryan had done some pretty terrible things while using drugs, the first thing he asked me was this:
Do you think you can ever forgive me? (I told him of course, he was already forgiven. He had ALWAYS been forgiven.)

Do you think you could ever love me again? (I told him that we had never stopped loving him, not for one second. We loved him then more than we had ever loved him.)

Do you think you could even love me with a boyfriend? (Crying, I told him that we could love him with fifteen boyfriends. We just wanted him back in our lives. We just wanted to have a relationship with him again…AND with his boyfriend.)

And a new journey was begun. One of healing, restoration, open communication and grace. LOTS of grace. And God was present every step of the way, leading and guiding us, gently reminding us simply to love our son, and leave the rest up to Him.

Over the next ten months, we learned to love our son. Period. No buts. No
conditions. Just because he breathes. We learned to love whoever our son loved. And it was easy. What I had been so afraid of became a blessing. The journey wasn’t without mistakes, but we had grace for each other, and the language of apology and forgiveness became a natural part of our relationship. As our son pursued recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, we pursued him. God taught us how to love him, to rejoice over him, to be proud of the man he was becoming. We were all healing…and most importantly, Ryan began to think that if WE could forgive him and love him, then maybe God could, too.

And then Ryan made the classic mistake of a recovering addict…he got back together with his old friends…his using friends. And one evening that was supposed to simply be a night at the movies turned out to be the first time he had shot up in ten months…and the last time. Ryan died on July 16, 2009. And we lost the ability to love our gay son…because we no longer had a gay son. What we had wished for…prayed for…hoped for…that we would NOT have a gay son, came true. But not at all in the way we used to envision.

Now, when I think back on the fear that governed all my reactions during those first six years after Ryan told us he was gay, I cringe as I realize how foolish I was.
I was afraid of all the wrong things. And I grieve, not only for my oldest son, who I will miss every day for the rest of my life, but for the mistakes I made. I grieve for what could have been, had we been walking by FAITH instead of by FEAR. Now, whenever Rob and I join our gay friends for an evening, I think about how much I would love to be visiting with Ryan and his partner over dinner. But instead, we visit Ryan’s gravestone.

We celebrate anniversaries: the would-have-been birthdays and the unforgettable day of his death. We wear orange – his color. We hoard memories: pictures, clothing he wore, handwritten notes, lists of things he loved, tokens of his passions, recollections of the funny songs he invented, his Curious George and baseball blankey, anything, really, that reminds us of our beautiful boy…for that is all we have left, and there will be no new memories.  We rejoice in our adult children, and in our growing family as they marry…but ache for the one of our “gang of four” who is missing. We mark life by the days BC (before coma) and AD (after death), because we are different people now; our life was irrevocably changed – in a million ways – by his death. We treasure friendships with others who “get it”…because they, too, have lost a child.

We weep. We seek Heaven for grace and mercy and redemption as we try – not to get better but to be better. And we pray that God can somehow use our story to help other parents learn to truly love their children. Just because they breathe.

Linda Diane Robertson
Written on December 5th, 2012
Posted on January 14, 2013 – Ryan’s would-have-been-24 birthday

Monday, June 24, 2013

MOM I'M GAY! Part One

“Mom, I’m gay.” Earth-shattering words to many conservative Christian parents — tragically, many view it as right up there with, “Your child has a brain tumor.” Actually, Christians will empathize with a brain tumor, but just try telling the church your child is gay and you will find the limit of grace withheld not only from gay Christians but from their accepting families. Not only what is said but unsaid can be oppressive for a family seeking love and truth.

I do not blame the parents in these situations for one nanosecond. Lord knows, they are trying to respond, with the wind knocked out of them, in an area where the church at large allows no breathing room. Parents blame themselves and Christians blame them. Seriously. No sooner do we hear the word gay or lesbian than we brace for impact — because we know the attack is coming.

This is why our response as a Christian community matters. A real person with a real story.

The photo above is of Linda and Ryan Robertson.

Just Because He Breathes
by Linda Mueller Robertson (Notes) on Monday, April 1, 2013 at 12:35am
Written on December 5th, 2012
First posted on January 14, 2013 – Ryan’s would-have-been-24 birthday

On the night of November 20, 2001, a conversation held over Instant Messenger changed our lives forever. Our twelve-year old son messaged me in my office from the computer in his bedroom.

Ryan says: can i tell u something

Mom says: Yes I am listening

Ryan says: well i don’t know how to say this really but, well……, I can’t keep lying to you about myself. I have been hiding this for too long and I sorta have to tell u now. By now u probably have an idea of what i am about to say.

Ryan says: I am gay

Ryan says: i can’t believe i just told you

Mom says: Are you joking?

Ryan says: no

Ryan says: i thought you would understand because of uncle don

Mom says: of course I would

Mom says: but what makes you think you are?

Ryan says: i know i am

Ryan says: i don’t like Hannah

Ryan says: it’s just a cover-up

Mom says: but that doesn’t make you gay…

Ryan says: i know

Ryan says: but u don’t understand

Ryan says: i am gay

Mom says: tell me more

Ryan says: it’s just the way i am and it’s something i know

Ryan says: u r not a lesbian and u know that it is the same thing

Mom says: what do you mean?

Ryan says: i am just gay

Ryan says: i am that

Mom says: I love you no matter what

Ryan says: i am white not black

Ryan says: i know

Ryan says: i am a boy not a girl

Ryan says: i am attracted to boys not girls

Ryan says: u know that about yourself and i know this

Mom says: what about what God thinks about acting on these desires?

Ryan says: i know

Mom says: thank you for telling me

Ryan says: and i am very confused about that right now

Mom says: I love you more for being honest

Ryan says: i know

Ryan says: thanx

We were completely shocked. Not that we didn’t know and love gay people – my only brother had come out to us several years before, and we adored him. But Ryan? He was unafraid of anything, tough as nails, and ALL boy. We had not seen this coming, and the emotion that overwhelmed us, kept us awake at night and, sadly, influenced all of our reactions over the next six years, was FEAR.
We said all the things that we thought loving Christian parents who believed the Bible to be the Word of God should say:
We love you. We will ALWAYS love you. And this is hard. REALLY hard. But we know what God says about this, and so you are going to have to make some really difficult choices.
We love you. But there are other men who have faced this same struggle, and God has worked in them to change their desires. We’ll get you their books…you can listen to their testimonies. And we will trust God with this.
We love you. But you are young, and your sexual orientation is still developing. The feelings you’ve had for other guys don’t make you gay. So please don’t tell anyone that you ARE gay. You don’t know who you are yet. Your identity is not that you are gay – it is that you are a child of God.

We love you. We will ALWAYS love you. But if you are going to follow Jesus, holiness is your only option. You are going to have to choose to follow Jesus, no matter what. And since you know what the Bible says, and since you want to follow God, embracing your sexuality is NOT an option.

Basically, we told our son that he had to choose between Jesus and his sexuality. We forced him to make a choice between God and being a sexual person. Choosing God, practically, meant living a lifetime of loneliness (never to fall in love, have his first kiss, hold hands, share intimacy companionship, experience romance), but it also meant the abundant life, perfect peace and eternal rewards.  So, for the first six years, he tried to choose Jesus.

Like so many others before him, he pleaded with God to help him be attracted to girls. He memorized Scripture, met with his youth pastor weekly, enthusiastically participated in all the church youth group events and Bible Studies, got baptized, read all the books that claimed to know where his gay feelings came from, dove into counseling to further discover the “why’s” of his unwanted attraction to other guys, worked through painful conflict resolution with my husband and I, and built strong friendships with other guys – straight guys – just like he was told to. He even came out to his entire youth group, giving his testimony of how God had rescued him from the traps of the enemy, and sharing – by memory – verse after verse that God had used to draw Ryan to Himself.

But nothing changed. God didn’t answer his prayer – or ours – though we were all believing with faith that the God of the Universe – the God for whom NOTHING is impossible – could easily make Ryan straight. But He did not.

Though our hearts may have been good (we truly thought what we were doing was loving), we did not even give Ryan a chance to wrestle with God, to figure out what HE believed God was telling him through scripture about his sexuality. We had believed firmly in giving each of our four children the space to question Christianity, to decide for themselves if they wanted to follow Jesus, to truly OWN their own faith. But we were too afraid to give Ryan that room when it came to his sexuality, for fear that he’d make the wrong choice.

And so, just before his 18th birthday, Ryan, depressed, suicidal, disillusioned and convinced that he would never be able to be loved by God, made a new choice. He decided to throw out his Bible and his faith at the same time, and to try searching for what he desperately wanted – peace – another way. And the way he chose to try first was drugs.

We had – unintentionally – taught Ryan to hate his sexuality. And since sexuality cannot be separated from the self, we had taught Ryan to hate himself. So as he began to use drugs, he did so with a recklessness and a lack of caution for his own safety that was alarming to everyone who knew him.


Linda Diane Robertson
Written on December 5th, 2012
Posted on January 14, 2013 – Ryan’s would-have-been-24 birthday

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Female Bonhoeffer...

A  Female Bonhoeffer
 by Daryl Lach

“A Female Bonhoeffer”
By: Daryl Lach
Many Christians are familiar with the heroics of Dietrich Bonhoeffer the German Lutheran pastor who fought against the Third Reich. He was imprisoned and hanged three weeks before the end of World War II. Yet few know of The Salvation Army’s own “Bonhoeffer,” Major Marie Ozanne.
Ozanne was a native of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands, which were occupied by the German Army from June 30, 1940 to May 1945. Because the islands’ value was more a propaganda triumph for Hitler than a strategic one, the people were (except for severe food rationing) treated fairly well compared to most conquered Europeans---as long as they remained compliant.

Ozanne was transferred to Guernsey from Belgium at the outset of hostilities so that she could be near her aging parents. In 1941, The Salvation Army was banned from the island. But Major Ozanne continued to preach in the streets, even after her uniform was confiscated. The Nazi Command at first ignored her and, as Occupation documents show, labeled her a frustrated, crazy religious fanatic.

However, her ministry became even more prophetic when she illegally offered food and comfort to the “sub-human” Jewish and Slavic slave laborers who were transported from Eastern Europe to build fortifications. The laborers wore rags around their feet for shoes and subsisted on watery soup. Marie boldly preached against their ill treatment and directly protested to the Nazi commandant.

Later, when Hitler ordered 2000 (mostly British) residents not born on the Islands deported to Germany, she protested again. Twice, she volunteered to replace islanders selected to be shot, but was turned down.

Several Salvationists thought Marie should “shut up.” They reasoned that nothing much could be done for the slave laborers until after the occupation, and with one armed German soldier for every two unarmed islanders, innocent people might get hurt. Yet she refused to be silent. In the summer of 1942, she was  imprisoned and tortured until she took ill and was released to a hospital. On Feb. 25, 1943, at the age of 37, she died from peritonitis.

In 1947 Major Marie Ozanne was posthumously admitted to the Order of the Founder, the Salvation Army’s highest honor. Her award cites her for maintaining “an outstandingly brave witness for God and for Salvation Army principles” and a “self-sacrificing concern for men’s freedom to serve God.”

Today a section at the Island German Occupation Museum is devoted to her life’s work. This year in February, on the 70th anniversary of her Promotion to Glory, a historical marker was placed on her childhood home. It reads: “A resister to oppression lived here.”