We have seen this same thing before. One year ago today, nine people sitting in Bible study at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, were similarly murdered in a hail of bullets simply because of who they were and who God made them to be.
In Orlando, it was GLBTQ men and women, mostly Latino/a. In Charleston, it was African-American men and women.
None of them checked off all of the boxes of the majority image in America: white, heterosexual, and male.
They may have checked off one or two. But not all three.
And this is to say nothing of the fact that white, straight, men can similarly be the victims of horrific mass murders--just look at the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings.
And that's sort of the point. We're all in this together. What affects you also affects me.
Intersectionality has become something of either a buzzword or a dog whistle word, depending on your perspective, but it possesses a far deeper meaning than either of those roles would have it possess.
For too long in our history, we took our quests and movements for equality and divorced them. Some second wave feminists allied with virulent segregationists during the 20th century. Some GLBTQ activists allied with the obscenely anti-woman fundamentalist Mormon churches over sexual behavior laws.
Now, though, they are being pitted against one another, as blatantly and transparently as possible. I see gay and lesbian friends being told, "Islam wants you dead." I see my female friends being told the same thing, or at least that Islam wants them totally oppressed.
We'll set aside for a moment the fact that conservative Christianity is likewise destructive towards women and GLBTQ people--something I pleaded with us to recognize in my blog post about Orlando. As one of my classmates from seminary put it, conservative Christians condemning Islam over GLBTQ issues is like "hearing a fox condemn his twin brother for attacking the chickens. Hate is hate."
Can we stop for a moment and realize that we are being told by others--who have their own sinful, selfish motives and thinking at work--who to hate? These commands to hate are not coming from God, or from our own inner consciences, but from people who are simply doing what they have always done: try to take advantage of others more vulnerable than they.
I'm not interested in accommodating those voices. I'm not interested in giving them credence. They are, I believe, using Scripture for their personal ends and not for God's ends.
If you throw Scripture at me, I will remind you that Jesus says that love of neighbor is one of the two laws that the entirety of Scripture hangs upon.
If you throw Scripture at me, I will remind you that Paul disapproved of ALL sexuality, not merely homosexuality.
If you throw Scripture at me, I will remind you that the Biblical model of marriage includes specific provisions for polygamous marriages.
Just as the abolitionists who would hear Scripture thrown at them about keeping slaves and respond with the Bible's overarching message of justice, love, and liberation.
I have two degrees in this, am in the middle of a third, and have a lifetime of Sunday School under my belt.
I'm done with views of the Bible that cannot see it for what it really says, and (just as crucially) what it has left unsaid.
Because those views are continuing to prevent us from seeing that my fate only matters because yours does as well. The deaths of the people in Pulse matter just as much as the deaths of the people in Mother Emanuel, and if you stay tuned for my sermon this Sunday, I think both peoples were killed in their respective sanctuaries, in places they believed that they could be safe with one another.
That is no longer the case.
Perhaps it never really was the case.
And if that is so, it is precisely because we have decided that we are not, in fact, in this together.
Yet more than anything else, that is what the Gospel teaches.
The parable of the Good Samaritan. The story of the Samaritan woman at the well. The feeding of the five thousand. Many of the most famous, most beloved stories in Scripture have that moral at their core, that humanity is not, has never been, and never will be an island.
Pushing people so far away that we see only their differences, and pushing them so far down that we only see them as small and minor figures in our worldview, is not of God.
Charleston should have taught us this.
Orlando should have taught us this.
What I worry, then, what I truly fear, is the truly cataclysmic dimensions of the event that it might actually take to teach us this and have it actually stick this time.
That we are together. We always have been.
To believe otherwise, I have come to know, is to succumb to a terrible temptation.
Like Christ in the wilderness, then, we must resist that temptation with the Word of God and a loving heart.
I would like to think that we remain capable of doing so. Together.
June 17, 2016
Images of Mother Emanuel AME and the memorial to its shooting victims courtesy of Garden and Gun magazine