Friday, June 17, 2016

Grief & Anger

For the past few days I have struggled with writing this post. It did not seem enough to express my emotions about the massacre in Orlando; I needed to say more, to say things that are on my heart and that need to be said. The shootings hit very close to home for me. Living in Tampa, and having lived in Kissimmee for 6 years, I know the area. Will was born in the hospital where many victims were taken, and one of his co-workers at the Olive Garden near UCF was there and survived, but lost three friends that night. I have friends who live only blocks from Pulse. The friend of a dear friend lost a niece that night. One of my former youth, a gay man now living in Arizona, had spent many nights in the club and did not know for many hours if he had lost friends. Pain is everywhere. And it is from that pain that I write today. You may not like or agree with the things I say here, and normally I am the first to tell you that "it is entirely possible that I may be wrong." I also freely admit that many of my statements are generalizations, and that there are many wonderful people and sincere churches out there who do get what it means to love like Christ. But today, I seek to write uncomfortable truths. Do with them (and me) as you will. If anything I say rings true, then you will understand that we can disagree and still be friends. We just can't hate. So here are 7 things that are on my heart this week...
  • This was a Hate Crime- to call it anything else is an attempt to make the crime more political and less personal. The shooter had terrorists ties, and his warped philosophy may have come from ISIS (not Islam- ISIS!). But he targeted this specific club because he wanted to see gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people die. This story is being spun by people who believe that USAmerica belongs to them, and who, like the Lt. Governor of Texas, believe that these helpless victims "reaped what they sowed." The sooner we (especially those of us who claim to follow Jesus) confess that the shooter was not the only one with hate in his heart, the sooner we can begin to deal with the root of our problem.
  • The framers of the constitution meant for the 2nd Amendment to protect your rights to own an assault rifle just as much as they wanted to protect the rights of the local fireworks tent to sell nuclear bombs. In colonial times guns were tools in the hands of the public and weapons in the hands of the militia. You needed guns to put food on the table and to protect your livestock from wild animals. No one- not one living person on planet earth- needs an assault rifle for anything but killing people. Ban them now!
  • Most of you know that I am a Christian, and spent 28 years of my life working in churches. So this is hard for me. But the #PrayForOrlando memes have made me a little sick to my stomach. We are telling a community of people- the LGBT community- for whom we have done little (except to marginalize and dehumanize) for many years that suddenly we feel their pain. We are telling people that our institution has told over and over again will "burn in Hell" that we now love them. Churches are now saying that LGBT lives matter- just so long as they don't wish to get married, be clergy, adopt children, chaperone youth group trips or do anything else that matters inside of our walls. We have taught people to hate the sin- and so those who see the LGBT community as sinners have hated who they are while claiming not to hate the sinner. It doesn't work that way. If you hate the fact that I am a glutton, and I am indeed a glutton, then you hate who I am- and therefore hate me. The Orlando shootings, just like the bombings of abortion clinics, are what hating the sin looks like when taken to a extreme conclusion. Jesus taught that everyone is our neighbor. Too many of our churches teach that everyone like ME is my neighbor. And then say, "But I'm praying for you..."  I have seen the church chew up and spit out pastors and members who came out of the closet. I myself was questioned about my sexual orientation because I had a gay youth pastor friend- and I would have been immediately fired if my answer to the question "Are you gay?" had been yes.The gospels say to love all, judge none and reach out to those we don't understand. Many USAmerican Christians have become far more likely to judge all, love some and hang out with with the people who are just like us. There are many exceptions- but they are still the minority. It is time for the Church Universal to assume its role as a catalyst for positive social change. Christianity is not some moral improvement plan through which we can fix people, it's about building loving relationships and allowing the Holy Spirit to work through them. Too many of us have forgotten that.
  • I am not sure I can live in a nation where a man can say things as vile and abhorrent as the pure sewage that Donald Trump has been spewing since Sunday morning and actually become more popular. No doubt, radical Islam can be a terrible thing. So can radical Christianity when it leads to groups like the KKK and events like the Crusades. The Church propped up slavery and ignored women for many years. The LGBT community has been our most recent victim. Every religion has failings and skeletons in the closet. God have mercy on us. Ignorance is a dangerous thing, and Trump is counting on the ignorance of voters and the fear it can create to get himself elected. That is not a partisan statement- if he were running as a Democrat he would still be the worst possible candidate I can imagine. And oh by the way- the oncologist who over the past year has done so much to save the life of someone I love? A Muslim immigrant...
  • There was something interesting on Twitter earlier in the week. A bisexual man wrote that one of the reasons that clubs like Pulse came into being in the first place was that many times LGBT people did not feel safe in public places, so they created their own space. The tweet ended with this: "Now we don't feel safe anywhere." How horrific is that? Our African-American friends have known that fear for many yeas, as have many women and other ethnic groups. So why...WHY?????...is the Church of Jesus Christ not a place where all feel safe?
  • Hundreds of people posted memes on Facebook this week that said guns aren't the problem, people are. "After all, Cain killed Abel with a rock." True- but Cain couldn't have killed 49 people with that rock. People's hearts are indeed the problem, but giving such troubled people such weapons is begging for the culture we now live in- one where guns are taking out groups of people nearly everyday. Led by the NRA, people are forever saying gun control will never work. In 1996, there was a mass shooting in Australia where 35 people were killed. The politicians sucked it up and said never again. They enacted tough gun control laws, bought back hundreds of thousands of guns and set about changing the culture. In the past 20 years there have been exactly ZERO mass shootings (more than 4 dead) in that country. In the USA we have had 7 in the past 10 days. Canada has had 8 in 20 years. We have had 7 in the past 10 days. Something must change. And it must change now.
  • For Christians, the stakes have never been higher than they are right now. Who do we trust- the powerful, corrupt and greedy who seek to lead us or the One who died so that we may truly live? Will we put our hope in Jesus or in the right to own an AK-15? Will we follow the Prince of Peace and actively work to change a culture of violence? Will we follow the Giver of Grace and lovingly reach out to those who may appear to be different from us, understanding that in God we are one family? Will we listen to the voice that throughout scripture, whenever things get scary, reminds us to "FEAR NOT?" Or will we listen to a culture that proclaims violence as the answer, judgment as the rule and fear as our only option? My friend Eric wrote in a comment on Facebook the other day the following challenge, aimed at Christians like me who have been too silent for too long: "Jesus would be upending tables and screaming about this. It's time for you guys to suit up and do the same." I could not agree more.
So please continue to pray for the victims of this tragedy and their families. Pray for the politicians who proceed so blindly with the status quo. And pray for our churches, which are filled with people who can make a difference if they choose to do so. And then we (starting with ME!) need to get off of our knees and DO SOMETHING! We can help put a stop to the madness, to prejudice and gun violence and so much more. Jesus taught that if we want to follow him we must put ourselves aside and love others as he loves us. It's not safety first, or theology first or politics first- it's love first, last and always. Let us find a better way...
Because of Jesus,

6 comments:

  1. Well said. Thanks for making me rethink a few of my own thoughts and put things in perspective

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  2. Anonymous6/17/2016

    Our founding fathers were not stupid! The second amendment was provided to protect citizens from hostile governments and perhaps even our own government. One thing worse than fifty dead Americans would be a country of free people taken over by terrorists or worse yet by a government like Nazi Germany. This is a terrible tragedy but if things go bad, I'd like citizens with the firepower to defend our nation. The good citizens with these guns are not the ones doing the killing. Outlaws and terrorists are doing the killing so let's focus on stopping them!

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  3. Anonymous6/17/2016

    Very well stated. I shared this with coworkers who also thought you were spot on. From: new fan in NC :)

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    1. Thanks so much for your kind words- and for sharing with friends!

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    2. Thanks so much for your kind words- and for sharing with friends!

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  4. I struggled all last week as well. I am in the bubble here in Alabama. It's weird that I grew up in NYC, a place of diversity, and now find myself in the bubble. I have no friends that are gay or black and, in Alabama, you could live your whole live this way. This only continues to deepen the disconnect, affirm apathy, and decreases empathy. Well done is better than well said. The question is, how?

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Thanks for reading,and thanks for your comment!