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One day, while strolling through Facebook, I found a picture of a billboard with content that stood out to me. The sign started out with a statement saying “I REFUSE TO HATE”. The billboard then continued to list out all the different ethnicities, religions, and genders of which the author refused to dislike. Though well-intentioned, I noticed that the sign’s creator left out quite a few people from the inventory. Some might say that it's impossible to include all angles of diversity in one small sign. However, by not being completely inclusive the words have lost their value to the few who are excluded. 

What if the sign read "I LOVE HATE."? 

This simple adjustment could deepen our conversations by highlighting differing variables of interpretation. This revision would not exclude creed, sexuality, or ethnicity. If "I LOVE HATE" was on this billboard it would create a platform for everyone to come together and share their personal journeys. A discussion that would provide common space to describe how experiencing hate and judgment is painful emotionally and sometimes physically. A chance to show a commonality of all humans who have experienced different forms of isolation or hostility. All stories have differing degrees of significance and severity, yes. However, the experience of hurt and pain is often indistinguishable and there are always opportunities to speak of the collective erudition that blossoms from life's hardships.

As a gay Christian, who advocates for the LGBT+ in spiritual communities, I often find myself in situations where the majority does not see my validity. During these instances, I have learned to claim an awareness of other's stories because I don't want to lose my appreciation of community or a chance to celebrate diversity. I have started listening to the journeys of people put in my path because I have learned that these stories give fantastic insight to how their minds work. Loving hate has opened me up to conversations that - on paper - I should not want to have. I may not leave these conversations with best friends but I surely have never left with any enemies. 

With what I have experienced as a gay man and through my presence in the LGBT+ community, I know that people are feeling tired and hopeless. For far too long the stronger more powerful majority has beaten down on those who has been underserved or are on the fringe. The under privileged are passed the point of exhaustion. Sometimes, in these situations it can be comforting to surround ourselves with like-minded people who share the same emotions, adhere to similar interests, and are passionate about the same things we are. During these moments it's easy to lose sight of the essentialness of diversity. If we only surround ourselves with mirror images we are no better than the oppressors. It is so important to never lose the ability to process our thoughts individually in an atmosphere that encourages variation.

What I am suggesting is a renewed burst of positive energy. A vow to never forget what hate has done in our past, both monstrous and magnificent. A promise to own our personal responsibility for standing up for what is good, right, and moral. A pledge to hold on to our own stories with confidence but to never hold them higher than anyone else's. And lastly, an eagerness to continue sharing our valuable stories both inside and outside of our personal circles. 

Keep sharing the wisdom of your heart.

So, what if you loved hate? What opportunities might open up simply because you decided to answer dark with light? How can you continue sharing your story in a way that has more meaning and direction? Let's see what a #lovehate movement can do for your soul.  From there, let's dream about what the #lovehate movement can do for the world.

Jonathan Farman is the President and CEO of GIFT Grand Rapids. He is an educator, advocate, artist, and mediator, with a passion to help resolve the pain and isolation that many from the LGBT+ community experience in faith communities.


GIFT is dedicated to helping ratify LGBT+ people of faith and help their communities affirm them. This may sound like a simple idea, but doing this can take so many different forms.  We do a variety of different things that are focused on the advocacy involved in our mission. Our “Gay Christian? Yes!” campaign back in 2012, providing information to churches, and our partnerships with local GSAs are just a few ways we have supported the community. 

But another part of that advocacy work is providing care. Rev. Jim Lucas has walked with countless individuals on their journeys of self-acceptance. I know, because he did it for me. Now I am excited to be with GIFT as the Care Intern this summer. I have been both helping with programs we already had in place (like our adult support group) and I have been working to build new programs that help our outreach and ministry to be able to connect to the social media world.

As I’ve been working on these programs, it has pushed me to think about what it means to care for others. Care means walking with people through different parts of their life journeys. It could be coming out or processing a loved one coming out, or it could be dealing with the internalized hate we may be carrying. In our fight for justice and equality for LGBT+ individuals, we must remember to be taking care of each other and ourselves.

I am inspired by this work because of the care I received back when I was first coming out, from Jim and from GIFT Grand Rapids as an organization. They were there to care for me and journey with me as I sought to connect my identity as a transgender woman with my faith. GIFT was a soothing presence in my life during a challenging time. Care can take so many forms, but one of those forms is being able to journey with people through their challenges. This is a form of care especially needed for LGBT+ individuals. 

That is why we have launched our online Spiritual Care program, which provides a place that people can come to when they have worries to talk about. That is now growing more with the introduction of an online Support Group. We are making sure that if people need support and care, we can be there with them.

To me, providing care and support to individuals on their journey is intertwined with the other advocacy work we do at GIFT Grand Rapids. We work on a personal level with LGBT+ people and their allies, while also working to make their faith communities be places where they can find acceptance. We want people to live whole and healthy lives, where their faith does not bring them self-hate but rather self-acceptance and GIFT is here to be on that journey with those who need it!

Ember Kelley is the Pastoral Intern for GIFT Grand Rapids this summer.  Ember is also a past board member and has been very influential in GIFT's history.  



GIFT is excited to share that this summer Ember Kelley will be joining us as a Pastoral Intern. She is a student of Chicago Theological Seminary and previously volunteered on GIFT's board. Now she is going to be joining us to help provide care to our community.

Ember will be involved in a variety of ways such as; offering online and in-person care, running groups, and tabling with us at Pride. We will be revealing more about these exciting programs in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more details!