Monday, June 13, 2016

What Dreams May Come: A Devout Reflection for Orlando

Dreams play such a tremendous role in the Bible. It is a dream that Joseph interprets to Pharaoh which saves the people of Egypt from a seven-year famine. In all likelihood, it is a dream that Isaiah had in the year that King Uzziah died in which he first saw the Lord. And it is a dream that Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, receives that pushes him to (a) not divorce Mary for being impregnated out of wedlock, (b) flee to Egypt in order to save Jesus's life during the Massacre of the Innocents, and (c) return home to Israel once Herod is dead.

Early Sunday morning, while most of us slept, rested, and dreamed, fifty souls in Orlando, Florida went to a far more permanent sleep at the hands of yet another domestic terrorist armed with an assault-style rifle.

You already know as much by now, you don't need me to tell you.

No, this is about me needing to tell you.

I have gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, and transgender friends who have undergone reparative therapy to try to "pray the gay away." I have GLBTQ friends who have literally tried to exorcise their sexual identity as a demon. I have GLBTQ friends who have been sexually assaulted, been homeless, and attempted suicide.

All they have wanted--all they have ever wanted, and wished for, and dreamed of--is a world that is safe for them to live in as equals, not as inferiors, not as hunted animals, and most certainly not as mass murder victims.

Yesterday, it was bathrooms. The day before that, it was adoption, the day before that, marriage. The day before that, being able to teach in public schools.

Today it is death.

When will it stop?

And more to the point, how will it stop? Will it take exorcising the homophobia and transphobia out of every single heart the way we have tried exorcising homosexuality in the past? Will it take fundamentally changing our understanding of the First Amendment and outlawing hate speech?

I really don't know anymore. But I need to tell you.

As a Christian, life comes first. Life uber alles.

And for far too long, what our GLBTQ brothers and sisters have lived is not life, not the kind of life God wanted for them, and that is *our* fault.

Not just fundamentalist Islam's fault, although certainly it is its fault in places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Syria.

But Fundamentalist Islam didn't cause us to pass bathroom laws.

Fundamentalist Islam didn't make us ban same-sex marriage.

Fundamentalist Islam didn't inspire a few small-minded jerks at school to bully me and pick fights with me when I was a teenager because they thought I was gay.

Nope, Omar Mateen may have pledged himself to the Islamic State, but he was a born-and-raised American citizen.

And when his imam says that Mateen never came to him for spiritual advice (even after reportedly growing more spiritual after a divorce), when his emotionally and physically abused ex-wife says that Mateen was never particularly devout in his faith, and when his father says the tipping point was Mateen witnessing two men kissing, this looks is less a case of straight-up religion and more a case of using religion to justify one's virulent homophobia.

Does that sound familiar to anyone?

It should, because that is how homophobic and transphobic preachers like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Franklin Graham have made their living for decades.

It is how the homophobic and transphobic politicians like Rick Scott, Marco Rubio, and Mike Huckabee who are today denying the GLBTQ identities of the victims, and denying the homophobic motives of the shooter, have similarly made their livings for decades.

We do not get to suddenly claim to be the champions of this bleeding and hurting community when just yesterday we were doing everything we could to legally oppress them.

That is not Christ-like of us. That is shameful.

What is the root cause of our bigotry? Is it really our Scriptures, or is it our sinful human condition that uses those Scriptures, proof-texted into unrecognizability, as a facade for our own hate?

Us taking those verses out of their original context to justify our own prejudices is never something God wanted for us. If you need proof, look no further than the fellowship of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Women did not consort with men, and Judeans most certainly did not consort with Samaritans, and all of this was taught at the time backed up with Scriptures.

Yet Jesus set those teachings aside, and changed the world for one lonely person as a result.

That person went and told the good news of someone who had cast aside those societal prejudices imposed upon her through religious teaching, and still more came to believe as a result.

No wonder John made sure to include that story, even as the other three Gospels did not.

The Samaritan woman did not die. She exists today.

She is that gay or lesbian, bisexual, queer, or transgender neighbor of yours, left to cast out for and carry water in the heat of noon in the high desert, away from the help or assistance of their other neighbors.

She poses no threat to you. She never has.

And she dreams of a world in which more people might treat her with the dignity and respect that Jesus did.

Orlando showed once more, in the most brutal way possible, that this world is not that world she dreams of, not by a long shot.

Passing the buck will not do if such a world is ever to come about. We are big on responsibility and accountability but short on it when it comes to ourselves, and when it comes to fostering a world in which homophobia and assault-style rifles are equally easy to acquire, we should hardly act shocked at ourselves for creating such a world.

We knew what we were doing all along.

And that's on us, and us alone.

We need to be able to confess that if we are to be set free of our own blinders, our own ignorances, our own nagging unfounded suspicions of the other.

Once we do, though, the real work can begin again.

For the truth of the Scriptures--those exact same Scriptures that get warped and twisted by fundamentalists of Christian and Islamic stripes alike--is that our sinfulness need not be the final word.

A vision, a dream, for a better, more loving, more living world has already been laid out for us. 

It can play as big or as small a role in your life as you let it.

For the people of God, the Josephs, the Isaiahs, those dreams were a source of hope amid fear, a source of light amid darkness, and most of all, a cause for action rather than for despair.

What dreams may come, then, if only we actually started caring instead of condemning, including instead of inciting, and living instead of dying?

What dreams may come when I fall to sleep in such a world? I pray to one day know.

To my GLBTQ friends--I love you all.

Longview, Washington
June 13, 2016

Rainbow Pulse ribbon image courtesy of Blogspot.

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