Dear Straight Christians,
We are all reeling from the fact that fifty precious children of God were gunned down in the wee hours of last Sunday morning. Fifty families are grieving the loss of their children. Fifty-three more families sit with their wounded loved ones in Florida hospitals.
Make no mistake, these souls were specifically targeted because of their sexual orientations. My gay family members and friends who I love dearly are devastated, broken hearted and traumatized. Our nation is once again aching from the raw, open wound of senseless, violent loss.
Loving them well now is going to ask a lot of us. Because, it isn’t about us.
Let’s be honest. The gay community already knows what too many Christians believe about their orientations. They know how they have been judged in character. They have heard, “You’re rebellious, you offend God, you are a mess, disgusting, disobedient. We don’t affirm you or support you. We don’t seek need to seek to understand you.” Then they have heard, “love the sinner, hate the sin” as a posture that attempts to justify the things we’ve said. But what that phrase actually communicates is, “We can judge what is acceptable in you and what is not. You are tainted. You must hide part of your soul away.” These things can never communicate love.
Can we have the courage to be even more honest here? Words and beliefs such as these help to create a climate of mistrust and otherness that can pave the way for hurtful actions. I am not assigning blame. I am saying we need to be aware of the ramifications of our ideologies. We affect the whole, for good or for not, and creating so much otherness fans the flames of those who need a target. After an event like this, we shouldn’t be surprised if the gay community has difficulty trusting our tears and love now.
The human ego cannot face its own shadow. We each keep our lesser-than, insecure, unloved parts hidden away, believing that if all I show to others is what will give others the best impression of me, then that impression is who I am. And it’s who I want to believe I am. However, Jesus was never fooled by the “clean cups” of the Pharisees that were gleaming on the outside, but filthy on the inside. When we hate, disdain or feel threatened by something in others, we are actually projecting the hated and rejected parts of ourselves out onto them. It’s a way of feeling purged and feeling acceptable by comparison as we reject, diminish or set them apart in some way. We even dare to believe that our rejection of the unacceptable other (or their parts) pleases God. This way of thinking sets up an atmosphere of fear and mistrust that opens the doorway to justify hurting the excluded ones. This pattern is as old as Cain and Abel. It’s been in our own sacred narratives from the very beginning.
The gay community have long been our scapegoats. And now that they are hurting and afraid, we have the opportunity to change for the sake of love. We have opportunity to be a part of the healing of the world that we so long for. It’s an opportunity to recall and reflect that the heart of God is not either/or. The heart of God is Mercy.
Jesus always beckons us into deeper and deeper depths of love. His way is always the path of kenosis, the emptying out of ourselves and our egos. Just as a swimmer cannot enter the depths of any waters weighted down with baggage, so must we leave our shoulds and oughts and dogmas and statements of beliefs on the riverbank, emptying ourselves of everything, so we may dive in too.
And so, may we stun the world with what the love of God really looks like:
- Love comes to us as we are.
- Love does not come with caveats.
- Love doesn’t draw lines, make demands, or ultimatums.
- Love seeks to know what it’s like to walk in another’s shoes.
- Love doesn’t look down upon anyone.
- Love never says, “us and them.” Love creates “we.”
And, may we graciously stand in the way of those who could do harm during this time of grief:
- It is not time to expect the gay community to be grateful for our sorrow. But they sure could use genuine advocates for their safety and basic human rights. Even simply asking one another to watch how we speak can help.
- There are a lot of competing voices clamoring for attention today in the aftermath, rendering the pain of the gay community invisible. Honor the grieving by not allowing yourself to get sidetracked in arguing other issues.
- There’s lots of scapegoating and blame, which is always driven by fear, not love. Be the voice that says, the wounded and fallen ones did not deserve this.
- Remember, it’s not about our caveats, and making sure people know where you stand. That’s ultimately only self-serving because it creates “us and them” again. It’s all about unfettered, unbounded love.
We have been down this road so many times. Late night host and person of faith Stephen Colbert said, “What do you say in the face of this horror? I don’t know what to say…But sadly, you know what to say because it has been said too many times before… It’s as if there’s a national script that we have learned. By accepting the script we tacitly accept that the script will end the same way every time with nothing changing, except for the loved ones of the victims and families for whom nothing will ever be the same. It’s easy to…despair and say, that is the way the world is now. I don’t know what to do, but I do know that despair is a victory for hate. Hate wants us to be too weak to change anything. Love does not despair. Love makes us strong. Love gives us the courage to act. Love gives us hope that change is possible. Love allows us to change the script.” Preach, brother.
Love can even move an obstacle as heavy and stubborn as the human ego. Love moves us beyond despair to open up the courageous humility that transformation requires. Love awakens us to its powerful movement throughout all of creation that will ultimately knit us all together as one.
The love of Christ says, you are not other than me.
May all of these children rest in peace with God.
a fellow sojourner