June 7, 2016

“We change the world by changing our everyday rhythms to include those who would otherwise be left to go it alone. Every person needs to hear that they’re loved because they breathe.”

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After following each other on social media for about a year… finally getting to sit down with Julie at Soho House in Chicago was an absolute treat. I ended up spending a weekend with her and some close friends (Wendy Davidson and Amanda Hite) for my birthday. It was one of the most memorable birthdays in life. You know that saying, “Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.” THAT quote sums up this group of women. Not only is Julie truly one of the most genuine individuals I have ever met in my 33 years on this planet…her words have the ability to leap off of the page and take hold of your heart. It is refreshing when you meet someone who fully understands your past and spends their time fighting for inclusion and equality.  I snapped some fresh headshots of her and we spent the weekend having conversations about unconditional love, christianity and coming up with plans for how we can work together in the future to help others who might be feeling excluded from the church. Oh, and of course we broke out in song whenever we had the chance. Which was often. This is my friend Julie Rodgers and this is her story:

1. Where are you from and where do you live now?

I grew up in Texas and spent most of my life in the Bible Belt. I’m happy to say I’ve made it to DC(!) and I hope it’s home for the rest of my life.

2. Tell me a little bit about what you spend most of your days doing.

I spend most of my time doing advocacy work for LGBT inclusion in Christian communities (in other words: encouraging Christians to live and love a little more like Jesus). I did that as an Associate Chaplain at Wheaton College last year, but that turned out to be quite a challenge, so now I spend most of my time speaking, writing, and looking for ways to alleviate suffering in the people around me. I’ve heard from hundreds of LGBT people who grew up in the church and heard a message that God didn’t like people like them. It’s heartbreaking and it’s caused so much suffering in so many people who still can’t believe God delights in them. My goal now is to point people to the radical welcome that Jesus extended to everyone He encountered, and my hope is that the church will become a place where everyone feels truly wanted.

3. Why do you feel that the simple message of the Promote Love Movement is important?

Pretty much everyone I know feels like they aren’t good enough. They’re not skinny enough, or successful enough, or religious enough, or generous enough. Most people feel like if they were a little more disciplined or looked a little sexier on social media, they would finally be worthy of love. But every person needs to hear that they’re loved because they breathe. My belief about the value of every human being is directly related to my belief about Jesus: He saw people right where they were and loved them as they were, not the person they wished they were or the one they had the potential to become. Promote Love is spreading that kind of spirit by celebrating people for who they actually are, right where they are, with no qualification.

4. Top 3 favorite books?

East of Eden by John Steinbeck, Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber, and Unapologetic by Francis Spufford.

5. What is one accomplishment in your life that you’re proud of that most people might not know of?

Through the vulnerability of my speaking and writing and some work behind the scenes, I played a key role in shutting down Exodus International.

6. What kind of person do you want to be remembered as when you die?

I want to have increased the tenderness in the world. I want to have created a place where people could show up, in all their vulnerability, and feel seen, known, and loved.

7. What is one piece of advice you would give to someone if you knew that today was going to be your last day to live?

Head straight for those in your immediate community who look like they’re lonely or running out of hope. We’re surrounded by people every day who need a good friend, but we often overlook them in our quest to find missions that sound a little sexier, a little more exciting. We change the world by changing our everyday rhythms to include those who would otherwise be left to go it alone. Offering sacrificial love to the real human beings in our actual lives can sometimes be exhausting but it’s always beautiful.

8. Why do you think it is import to be your authentic self?

Most people feel like, for one reason or another, they wouldn’t be loved if they were truly known. But when we tell the truth about ourselves––our fears, failures, and insecurities––we make it a little easier for others to tell the truth about themselves too. And when people begin to tell the truth about themselves, they’re finally able to be truly known and deeply loved. We’ll never experience the love we long for if we spend all our energy keeping up an appearance.

The most obvious way that’s played out in my life has been by being openly gay and openly crazy about Jesus. For far too long, people have felt pressure to choose between the way in which they love and the way they express their faith, but we can’t suppress one part of ourselves without shutting down the rest. From the time I was a teenager, I’ve found that by showing up and being seen as unapologetically gay and unapologetically Christian, countless people have found the courage to come out and say “me too.”

9. Do you have a message to kids out there who come out and might not have the support of their families/friends?

I know it’s lonely right now, but millions of people have walked in your shoes and you’ll eventually find yourself in circles where people delight in you just the way you are. Look for the safe people in your community. Look for leaders who are honest about themselves in ways that set them apart––those who live like every person they meet is a gift. Also if the rejection you face is for religious reasons, The Gay Christian Network is a great place to connect with people both online and in cities all over the country.

More than anything else, because of what I believe about Jesus, remember this: You are loved. You are loved. You are loved. And you’re not alone.

Please follow along with JULIE RODGERS HERE.


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