Saturday, June 18, 2016
The Mighty Force of Love
There's been a lot said this week and a lot shared on social media about the horrible crime at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Many of us in the LGBTQ+ community have struggled with staying focused at work in between bouts of sobbing and the mental fog that descends when you are in grief. Grief is like that. It suspends all time, manner, and place as it puts you in an other-worldly in-between space of neither here nor there.
I have appreciated the posts where gay people attempt to explain to the straight community why we who are LGBTQ+ feel this tragedy on a personal level. It is a rare person who comes out as gay, lesbian, bi, or transgender who has not been to a gay nightclub and considers such places to be a refuge from a harsh and hating world. Every one of us could see in the faces of the victims our own selves as well as seeing the individual young and joyful eyes of so many Latinx who were embracing life and celebrating Pride Week in America's theme park city. When we expressed "We are Orlando" that's what we meant.
I also have appreciated those expressions from straight friends struggling to find words and ways to express their profound sorrow about this hate crime. For some of them, it has come in the form of wanting to offer prayers, attend the vigils, give free hugs. For others it has been to express their outrage that we've had another mass shooting in America and the demand that we not ignore the carnage or worry that "now is not the time" to talk about the growing problem of gun violence. At long last, some of my friends who are gun enthusiasts are now raising the same questions I've had forever about the wide and easy availability of certain weapons and the lobby that blocks any study of gun violence from happening. I see in these responses that effort to channel into action feelings of "What can I do?" To not feel helpless in a helpless situation.
Still, there have been those whose response to the terribleness of this shooting was to do one of two other things: attempt to turn away from the real fact that this was a targeted killing of LGBTQ+ people of color and make it about terrorism (a claim that has now been refuted by our own intelligence sources) and to otherwise not speak the name of "gay" or "queer" or "LGBTQ+" but generically refer to the 49 dead as "victims" or "humans." The other was to want to do what I call "turning the spotlight" on themselves by insisting that (fill-in-the-name) minority group has, in fact, been killed in greater numbers than what happened at Pulse in one night, as if there was something to be gained in taking the prize for "worst mass shooting ever."
For me, the biggest hurt has been in how the church and Christians specifically have responded. A hate-filled pastor in California puts up a video saying that more of us should have died. That he claims the mantle of Christ is offensive to me. And then why anyone who professes a belief in Jesus Christ would feel the need to share videos or reports about these anti-gay remarks of an off-the-wall pastor was mind-boggling. Atheists, naturally, would share such a thing so as to highlight the hypocrites in their contention that all Christians are hypocrites.
In response to those irresponsible and hateful words, I shared this Facebook video by Fr. Jim Martin, a Jesuit Roman Catholic priest to show that face of Christianity that is not homophobic. His words are of far greater value, in my opinion, and deserve to be shared. Because the true test of one's faithfulness to Christ is the ability to enter into the pain and suffering of the injured, the despondent, the grieving and the hurting person without condition and without the need to shift the spotlight onto one's self or to keep one's self aloof and apart. The words of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew, "Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest," is the type of invitation that many of us would be happy to accept from those who profess to be followers of Christ. Shoulder this grief with us, give us the space to feel and breathe again. And above all else, refute the attempts to whitewash this tragedy by acknowledging this was about hatred of gay people. Just like the shooting at this time last year inside Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston was about the calculated killing of black people. It's all about hate and fear of those painted by some politicians and church leaders as "others."
I am more convinced than ever that the reason the LGBTQ+ population was a target in this crime and why we are trotted out every two-to-four years to be vilified and made into demons in the political spectrum is because we are a community built on love.
Because we love we are hated and feared.
Because we love those who dwell in darkness are always attempting to douse our light.
Because we love the peddlers of destruction and death project their own brokenness unto us and then scream, "A-ha!"
Jesus, who was the queerest person in every sense of the word in the whole Bible in my opinion, knows the odds that the LGBTQ+ community faces because he, too, was killed by a world that was too scared and threatened to accept that he loved and wanted everyone to love. Obviously, the world hasn't changed that much. And yet, it is the Christian narrative of Jesus' resurrection and his power to overcome death that serves as a source of strength for me in my commitment and belief that Love is going to win. Always. Even when it suffers punches and body blows, it will prevail.
Time to commit to love more deeply and strongly than ever before.