Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

“Unfinished Lives” Book Tour Rolls Through North Carolina


Stephen Sprinkle signs "Unfinished Lives" book at Barton College, Wilson, North Carolina (Keith Tew photograph)

Raleigh, North Carolina – The Unfinished Lives Book Tour is visiting cities, churches, and campuses throughout the Old North State, and buzz is growing on the book wherever it goes.  Dr. Sprinkle commenced at the home of the Reverends Phil Jones and Cathy Cralle-Jones in Cary on April 9, where a packed house heard the story of how Unfinished Lives came to be. “I survived an anti-gay hate crime threat myself in 2000,” Dr. Sprinkle told the gathering of well-wishers for the book.  “That near-brush with physical violence just because I was gay set me on the journey to learn as much as I could about other stories of hate crimes victims in the United States,” he said. Representatives of St. Paul’s Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Hillyer Memorial Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, Covenant Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Cary, Hopewell United Methodist Church in Sampson County, and the Graduate School at North Carolina State University engaged Dr. Sprinkle in a lively Q & A on hate crimes in America.  On Sunday, April 10, Dr. Sprinkle preached for the 9 and 11 a.m. services at St. Jude’s Metropolitan Community Church in Wilmington, an LGBTQ-predominant congregation founded after the brutal 1990 disembowelment slaying of lesbian carpenter, Talana Quay Kreeger, “Talana with the wild, blonde hair.”  No church in the city would allow Kreeger’s funeral because of the negativity toward her homosexuality, though she was the innocent victim of a horrendous hate crime.  Coastal Carolina queer folk vowed never to depend on a straight Christian congregation again to allow a funeral for one of their own. Local visionary activist, social worker Tab Ballis, introduced Dr. Lou Buttino, head of the UNC-Wilmington Film Studies Department, and announced that “The Park View Project” documenting the murder of Talana Kreeger, would be seen to completion by the eminent filmmaker. Reverend John A. McLaughlin, pastor of St. Jude’s, welcomed Dr. Sprinkle on behalf of the city of Wilmington. In the afternoon, representatives of St. Jude’s and First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Wilmington, and Winterville Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) joined Dr. Sprinkle for a book signing at Two Sisters Bookery in the historic Cape Fear Riverfront Cotton Exchange. On Monday, April 11, Dr. Sprinkle spoke at the NC State University GLBT Center “Lunch and Learn” event, and signed copies of his book. Center Director Justine Hollingshead and Emeritus Professor Bill Swallow hosted Dr. Sprinkle at State, where members of the Wolfpack Football Team were in attendance for the talk. This was Dr. Sprinkle’s second appearance at the NC State GLBT Center. In the afternoon, Dr. Sprinkle and Rev. Phil Jones went to Wilson to deliver a lecture and sign books at Barton College.  Dr. Sprinkle was hosted by Dr. Joe Jones, and greeted by members of the Religion and Philosophy, Sociology, Social Work, and English faculties of the college. He spoke on “Honor and Educate: How the Community of the Dead Shapes LGBTQ Community.”  Students, faculty, and staff asked many probing and pertinent questions about the nature of anti-LGBTQ hate crimes and the linkage with religious intolerance. On Tuesday, April 12, Rev. Jones and Dr. Sprinkle traveled to Duke University Divinity School in Durham for a book signing sponsored by Cokesbury Bookstore. Dr. Stanley Hauerwas, renowned theological ethicist, called “America’s best theologian” by Time Magazine, attended, and got his copy of Unfinished Lives. “These stories need to be gotten out there,” Dr. Hauerwas said. He presented Dr. Sprinkle with a signed copy of his 2005 book, Cross-Shattered Christ: Meditations on the Seven Last Words. Later in the afternoon, the tour went to the LGBTQ Center on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where Dr. Sprinkle and Rev. Jones were greeted by Terry Phoenix, Center Director. A topic of discussion was the April 4 torture attack on gay UNC student Quinn Matney, who claimed he was branded by a super-hot metal instrument while being held down by his assailant. “Here is a taste of hell for you, you fucking faggot!”, the UNC student said his attacker shouted while torturing him, as reported to the Daily Tarheel. Before departing Chapel Hill, Dr. Sprinkle introduced his book to Dr. Rick Edens and Dr. Jill Edens, co-pastors at the 800-member United Church, a congregation of the United Church of Christ. Dr. Sprinkle plans to contact RDU leaders on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Program on Wednesday, before returning to Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth.  The book tour is making friends and news everywhere it goes.  A four-session series on the book is planned for Houston during Pride Month, in June, and a six city national tour in the Fall.  Stay tuned for more on Unfinished Lives!

April 12, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Barton College, Beatings and battery, Bisexual persons, Book Tour, Bullying in schools, Burning and branding, Cokesbury Books, Covenant Christian Church, death threats, desecration of corpses, Duke Divinity School, Evisceration, First Christian Church Wilmington, funerals, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program, It Gets Better Book, It Gets Better Project (IGBP), Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Matthew Shepard Act, NC State GLBT Center, NC State Graduate School, North Carolina, Park View Project, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Public Theology, Queer, Racism, rape, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, School and church shootings, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, St Jude's MCC, stabbings, stalking, Stanley Hauerwas, Stomping and Kicking Violence, Strangulation, suicide, Torture and Mutilation, transgender persons, transphobia, Two Sisters Bookery, U.S. Navy, UNC-Chapel Hill LGBTQ Center, UNC-W Film Studies Program, Unfinished Lives Book Signings, United Church of Chapel Hill, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on “Unfinished Lives” Book Tour Rolls Through North Carolina

“It Gets Better” Makes Us All Stronger! A Special Comment by Dr. Stephen Sprinkle

Dr. Stephen Sprinkle and Dan Savage (Unfinished Lives Project Director, Dr.Sprinkle, was an early contributor to the "It Gets Better Project").

When Dan Savage and Terry Miller conceived of the “It Gets Better Project,” the goal they had was a hundred videos.  Now there are over 10,000 of them, and the videos have been viewed over 40,000,000 times to date—and growing!  Dan has said that had there been 20 videos online, and one life saved, it would have been worth it.  We know now that many, many teenage lives have been given new hope, and also that young lives by the hundreds have been saved by this visionary project.  As the Jewish Talmud teaches, Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5; Babylonian Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin 37a).  The IGB Project, and now the New York Times bestselling book by the same name has already saved a galaxy of worlds by this rabbinic measure.

But the IGB project and book have gone one better than this, if such a thing might be possible.  Dan, Terry, and the worldwide host of contributors to this positive effort have changed the world irrevocably, queer and straight alike.  Here are two of the ways I see.

First, the “coming out story,” a staple of LGBTQ life, has been transformed into a declaration of how the queer community is overcoming shame, persecution, and victimhood—and coming on strong.  For two generations since Stonewall, the coming out story has been a way LGBTQ people shared their struggles and established solidarity with each other.  Most of these stories were accounts of struggle, hurt, and survival. Queer folk got to see they were not alone and isolated—we heard the battles others fought, and compared scars—and that was powerful for all parties, because these stories allowed us to see that there were others like us in this difficult world—that we resisted and lived on into a new life together, no longer alone.  But IGB went a crucial step further: as thousands of us were empowered to speak directly to queer teenagers with a positive message of hope and power, “It really does get better, and this is how it got better for us,” we got to overhear ourselves rehearsing stories of strength and success—not just repetitions of woe and endurance.  IGB powered up the queer community to tell the whole world how we are defeating opposition in fine style thousands of different ways everyday.  The message is, “We are no one’s patsies anymore, thank you! And we are ready and able to make things improve for ourselves and our teens every day, until it gets better for all of us!”  IGB changed the coming out story into the overcoming stories of a powerful queer people who will never settle for victimhood again.  In my religious tradition, as a queer Baptist preacher, that makes me want to shout, Hallelujah!

Second, IGB empowered our straight allies to come out strong, too.  From President Obama to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  From Prime Minister David Cameron to Lutheran Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson. From moms and pops, school teachers who taught us, and straight employers who hired us.  Our allies joined the queer community to make the message of zero tolerance for school bullying perfectly queer.  I know the term “queer” rankles some genteel sentiments, but to see the way our straight allies have taken the term and wrapped themselves in it for our sakes should dispel the last reservations we have about the word and about how the LGBTQ movement for human rights and equal dignity will grow and eventually prevail.  Straight queer allies by the hundreds of thousands are rising up against bullying, het privilege, and the culture of violence that imperils not only gender non-conforming youth, but all youth everywhere.  By ourselves, LGBTQ people are not numerous enough to change the het world.  But IGB shows youth and adults in our LGBTQ communities—out or closeted—that growing numbers of queerly empowered straight allies are joining us to transform the world we all share.  This is no panacea, of course.  My generation may not live to see it, especially in the churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques where old prejudices linger with desperate power.  But even there, straight allies are queering religion with us.  When the annals of these years are written, I believe the IGB Project will feature prominently in the story of how all us queers, LGBTQ and straight, overcame together. Like the Black Gospel refrain goes, “Over! Over! My soul looks back and wonders how I got over!”

So, Dan and Terry, and the tens of thousands who have rallied to the cause of a safer world for youth to grow up in, a salute to you!  The children will rise up to call you “blessed.”  And so does this mighty queer Baptist preacher from Texas, too!    ~ Stephen V. Sprinkle, Brite Divinity School, and Unfinished Lives Project Director

April 3, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Bisexual persons, Bullying in schools, Dan Savage, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, It Gets Better Book, It Gets Better Project, It Gets Better Project (IGBP), Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Popular Culture, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments, Stonewall Inn, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on “It Gets Better” Makes Us All Stronger! A Special Comment by Dr. Stephen Sprinkle


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