The fourth essential intelligence represents discernment, our ability to distinguish right from wrong and make the correct choice based on more than just facts. This level of intelligence reflects our values, our behaviors, our purpose in life and how we recognize the rights and worth of others. Moral intelligence is characterized by the growth from selfish concern for “me” to interest in others and ultimately caring for everyone. The “little voice” of our conscience speaks from this IQ as well.
Sometimes that voice calls out so loudly that one cannot stifle it with the noise of the status quo. For Mel White, an evangelical Christian pastor, seminary professor, author and ghostwriter for prominent evangelists like Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, Oliver North and Pat Robertson, his conscience kept telling him that hiding his homosexuality in the fundamentalist closet was wrong.
So when White was challenged to speak out against Christian fundamentalist ideas about gays; to live openly as a gay man in front of his former evangelical friends and co-workers; to speak to hostile audiences; to fast or protest on the steps of the Capitol or at the gates of the White House—he accepted the mission.
In 2002, White and his partner of 20 years, Gary Nixon, leased a house across the street from Jerry Falwell’s church, Thomas Street Baptist, in Lynchburg, Virginia. Every Sunday White and Nixon brought gay and lesbian worshippers to services so that members of the congregation met them on a person-to-person basis.
Falwell doesn’t like it (he and White are not close friends anymore), but White’s efforts are slowly bearing fruit. The movement, called Soulforce and boasting chapters in over twenty communities, draws on the principles of love and civil disobedience put forth by Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi and executed by Martin Luther King Jr. White sees his goal as not just acceptance for the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender community, but permission for its members to seek justice for themselves. As Mark Twain once remarked, “Of going along to get along, maintaining silence that obscures the truth . . . is timid—and shabby.”
Mel White probably doesn’t consider himself a hero, but sacrificing his comfortable position for what he knew was right took radical courage. His honesty reminds us that recognizing one’s moral intelligence is an essential guidepost on the path to development of body and soul.
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Alan Davidson, founder of www.ThroughYourBody.com and author of Body Brilliance:Mastering Your Five VitalIntelligences (IQs)
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