[NOTE: This is a social media post I wrote in 2016, in the wake of the horrors of human slaughter at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. It still represents where my thinking is, today.]
Most who know me are aware that I am moderate in most things, trying to strike a balance between being conciliatory and true to my conscience, at the same time. I do not wish to stir up trouble, or arouse discord among my friends of very diverse belief systems and circumstances. This is a struggle, tonight, because I feel prompted to share what’s in my heart. I will do my best to be faithful to what I truly feel, without trying to pander to any one group or person, but I want you to know that I say this with some trepidation. The world we live in—especially this online pseudo-world—is so antagonistically divisive, with people poking at and baiting hateful response. I do not want to be one more voice adding my vitriol and indignation to theirs.
This morning, an evil, disturbed man, stirred by bad theology, slaughtered 50 of his fellow human beings. Despite what some might say or think, I feel sure he is nothing like my kind, warm-hearted expectant mom friend, who wears a burka, and prays toward Mecca 5 times a day. I also cannot (and will not) try to reconcile him with families I regularly interact with, in Southeast Nashville. They are no more the same than my autistic husband, and the Newtown killer, or my Christian pastor and Jim Jones or David Koresh. To be sure, it is possible that there is a radical with hatred in his or her heart, among the people I’m in contact with, or even among people I know or have met, from various belief systems, whether the one I claim, a different faith, or friends who claim no religious faith at all. Still if hatred’s what motivated the killer of 50 children of my Creator, today, I can’t see how focusing my energies on hate make me anything other than a copycat, however writ small.
This morning, an elder at my church spoke of his compassion and love for the LGBT community, many of whom have been treated with scorn—like they are walking embodiment of sin, itself— untouchables, less worthy of grace and kindness than their heterosexual families and friends. The LGBT community, for me, includes a young man who was one of my teens, when I was a youth minister. It includes a boy who once asked me to go out— probably in part, at least, so the other h.s. boys would stop calling him “Judy”. It’s a friend who took my hoops-loving daughter to see college women’s games. And it is more than one beloved cousin, still treated by a handful of family members, like they are a shame and disgrace.
Now, these are “church hurt” people, sometimes, told to get themselves all “fixed” and acceptable, before they are welcome to even break bread or talk. Today 50 of these people— like others who the institutional church deemed “unclean”, but who Jesus would’ve likely shown compassion to, ceased to live. This should break our hearts, whatever we conscientiously believe our holy books teach about sexuality. People are hurting, and there is only one balm I know that helps heal, and that is love. It is the antidote to the hate rained down in bullets on our gay fellow men and women. For me, that looks like Christ’s love, and God’s unmerited grace. I am willing to admit that may come from a different place for you. Love, btw, doesn’t require you to put a rubber-stamped seal of approval on anyone else’s life—but it does work best, as my dad would’ve put it, “if you treat ’em like a human being”. That, I’ve found, when I manage it (I don’t, always), goes a long, long way. I’m entreating my friends, today, to try extra hard to show that care and basic acknowledgement of others’ humanity. Even a warm smile, in passing, whether to one of life’s “undesirables”, on the streets, or to the care-worn stranger you see in the supermarket, can make another person feel valued for a moment, in a world that increasingly just doesn’t care.
I don’t have all the answers. (It seems I rarely do. Sorry.) I am sad. Like most Americans, I’m mad, too. But I believe I’m called, first, to love. I am praying for healing, wisdom, comfort, and compassion for all those in pain, and those helping them. I am weary in waiting for peace, if I’m honest. The only thing I know to do to remedy that is to actively try to spread peace through my interactions with whomever I come in contact. For me, diving into study of how my primary example—as a Christ-follower, that’s Jesus—reached out to people “on the outside”, helps me remember how crucial that is to what I believe. If your beliefs are different, I’m sure you still have many honorable elders whose love for others, in “real life”, or historically, reminds you how rare this quality of actively loving people well is, and how important a thing it is, to which we should all aspire. The first draft of this said so many things so much better. But that version was lost forever to some dumb smartphone glitch. Essentially, I just want to tell all of you that I love you, and that there is hope for more peace than pain, if we will all reach across these seeming gulfs, toward one another, and surround those who are hurting with kindness and Light. Goodnight, friends.