14 Jun How The Church Can Show Up After The Pulse Shooting
Just when LGBT people started to feel safe to be out and open in public, our community was targeted for the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. And within hours of learning about the massacre at Pulse, we heard a man from Indiana was arrested on his way to LA pride with three assault rifles and chemicals that could create an explosion.
We are scared. We are overwhelmed with grief. And when we LGBT Christians have most needed support from our churches, we’ve watched our leaders remain largely silent. Some briefly stated that they’re praying for Orlando, but few have publicly named the significance of the shooter targeting gay people––specifically queer people of color. So here are some scattered, link roundup-ish thoughts to help you better understand what we’re feeling. Hopefully more understanding will lead to the kind of change that can bring healing.
Rather than fighting and dividing over our differences, this is a time to come together to lament. It’s a time to grieve the human beings whose lives were cut short. Watch this beautiful tribute to the victims by Anderson Cooper, who said: “They are more than a list of names. They are people who loved and who were loved.”
It’s hard to explain the sense of safety we have felt in queer spaces. Whether it’s in gay Bible studies, night clubs, or rugby leagues, queer spaces have provided a place for us to exhale, to drop our filters, to stop code-switching or monitoring whether the people around us think we’re gross. Broderick Greer shared about the familiarity and warmth he feels in black churches and gay bars, which he described as “a sanctuary for people who are subjected to violence and discrimination on a regular basis.” Richard Kim said they’re “homes for folks without families,” which includes many LGBT people, since family members often grow distant when we come out. The anxiety around the violence was exacerbated by the fact that it happened in one of the few places that felt safe for so many.
I’ve been sad to see the silence or qualified condolences from conservative Christian leaders. You do not have to support same-sex marriage to fight for safety and protection for human beings made in the image of God. Your solidarity will not be taken as theological agreement, and it’s hard for me to understand how grieving the death of 50 beautiful people can feel complicated for a Christian. It’s always right to grieve with those who are grieving. We’ve heard your outrage over Target, Chick-fil-A, and the bathroom bills. Where is your outrage when LGBT people are slaughtered?
Matthew Vines offered some suggestions for Christian leaders in TIME yesterday. Here’s a snippet but the whole thing is worth reading: “It didn’t help that we were faced with the news of the slaughter on a Sunday, a day that already serves as a reminder of how unwelcome we are in most traditional sanctuaries. For the nearly 50% of LGBT Americans who are Christians, as I am, it only compounded the pain to have our faith leaders either ignore the massacre, qualify their condolences in ways they never would for other victims, or simply omit the fact that LGBT people were targeted for death because of who they are.” He ended with this powerful word: “Churches will be marked in the LGBT community for years to come by how they respond to us in this moment. Please do all you can to let that mark be one of unconditional love.”
I’m thankful for Christian leaders who HAVE spoken up to show support. Some have done so with sincerity and love. I want to encourage you to go further by understanding how the church’s treatment of LGBT people has helped create this kind of culture. Rachel Held Evans explained some of our angst on her Facebook page yesterday and Jen Hatmaker did the same today. I encourage you to read both of those to better understand more of the context around our grief. My hope is that understanding will bring repentance, and repentance will lead to reconciliation. As a gay Christian who’s devoted my life to following Jesus and serving the church, I desperately want to see us grow. I want to see grace and forgiveness and restored relationships. Repentance will pave the way to restoration.
Over the years, many straight Christians have asked me how they can love their LGBT neighbors. My response is usually: “The same way you love any neighbor.” We show up for one another. We cook meals, share stories, and catch a fresh vision for the world through one another’s eyes. Love grows in relationships, and the best way to support us is to show up, listen, and lament. There are prayer vigils happening all over the country and I hope you’ll join us to seek the Lord alongside us.
Finally, I know many Christians are eager to show compassion. I see many of you trying to support us and I know it can be hard to figure it out when some of us seem hurt or angry regardless of how you respond. There’s a lot of pain for LGBT people when it comes to our relationship with the church, and part of your role might be to absorb some of that pain. Healing happens in relationship, and I would ask that you be patient with us as we grieve. I know many of my LGBT friends and I have tried to be patient with the church.