Outrage is like catnip to some people…myself included. We find an issue to be mad about, we make a couple of Tweets, and we post some articles on Facebook… And that’s about it. But the kind of anger we experience is meant to spur us into ACTION. Instead, we get the relief of being angry about things, and even experiencing some corporate outrage in the echo chambers of social media… Then we feel a little bit better, and move onto the next issue–But nothing really CHANGES. It’s a counterfeit. And then–a few months later–when the same exact sort of injustice happens again, we’re left wondering, “Why hasn’t anyone DONE something about this!?!” Well, before we all move on to the next issue, I’d like to suggest a few things that actually need to change… Particularly within my tribe: Christianity.
1. Change The Way You Read The Bible
Stop reading the Bible the way that ISIS reads the Qur’an. The people who commit horrible acts like what happened in Orlando are the sort of people who are CERTAIN that their way of understanding scripture is the one right way. If you are the kind of person who tries to quote a verse in Leviticus to “prove” that God hates homosexuality, you are part of the problem. And if you are the sort of person who thinks one verse that has Jesus telling his disciples to “buy a sword” negates the overwhelming call for nonviolence on Jesus’ followers, again, you are part of the problem. The shooter’s father said (in a video comment), “The issue of homosexuality and its punishment–all that they do–God himself will give punishment to homosexuality. It is not for people to decide.” This way of seeing things isn’t about Christianity or about Islam.. It’s about fundamentalism. It’s about a dangerous certainty that informs the way people read scripture, and interprets what is read as having God be for *them* and against everyone else.
I don’t care what religion you call yourself–You cannot separate the belief in the violent God (who is planning on sending all the gays to be tortured forever in Hell) from the acts of violence committed in his name. Reading the Bible in a way that ends up with a god who you have to keep reminding people was “vengeful and full of wrath” has real-world consequences. And right now we are seeing the fruits of those beliefs in a hate-filled God… We are seeing the fruits of the garbage that is “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” This. Needs. To change. There are other ways to read and understand the Bible (THIS IS THE BEST EXPLANATION OF THAT I HAVE EVER READ).
2. Change The Way You Pray
Telling people you are “praying for them,” while believing that the god you are praying to hates them enough to send them to Hell is one of the most F’ed Up things that I can imagine. Most of those same people probably believe that I’m going to Hell also. And I totally get why you’d think I’m going to Hell… We believe in completely different Gods! You believe in the god who hates his enemies, and I believe in the God who LOVES his enemies. Either way, if our prayers are to have any significance at all, our prayers need to become loving actions. Otherwise, what are they worth? In the Bible, James writes about this…
“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or a sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”–but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.”
There was a neat story about Chick-Fil-A workers going into work on a Sunday (when Chick-Fil-A is usually closed) and making sandwiches to give to the people who were waiting in-line to give blood. And as awesome as this is, if it’s done out of some desire to save people from hellfire, it is “dead and meaningless.” We’re not trying to feed people as a means to an end… Hoping to get them to say some meaningless, magical prayer that will save them FROM a monstrous God who is sending everyone but a very select few to be tortured forever. We feed people because they are hungry. We feed people because they are people. We love people because they are worthy of being loved. And we remind them that they have infinite worth, and that there is a Force in the universe that loves them wildly… Regardless of where they are from. Regardless of what name they have for God. Regardless of what they have or what they look like… And yes–Regardless of who they love.
All over the place, we saw people summoning “Thoughts and Prayers” for the victims in Orlando, and for their families… But many of the people making those pleas were the very same folks who have been actively working to pass laws that make it legal for people to discriminate against the sorts of people who might go to a club like Pulse on a Saturday night. And those same folks call for a”moment of silence” in honor of the ones who died? I agree with Rep. Jim Hines, who said that these, “smug, self-empowering moments of silence in the House… do absolutely nothing for anybody.” If there is any sort of abomination involved here, it is the process of going through the motions of “honoring” a group of people you believe are worthless–Or at least worth less. Keep your moments of silence. Silence is what the LGBT community has been getting for a very long time from many of our elected leaders… I doubt they need any more. Which leads me to my next change…
3. Change The Way You Vote
Somewhere around 90% of Americans favor stricter gun control laws. Do you have any idea how hard it is right now to get 90% of Americans to agree on ANYTHING?!? It is next to impossible. There is absolutely no rational reason for people to be able to buy military weapons that are designed to kill many people in a very short amount of time. And even though the republican allegiance to the NRA is easier to see, this is far from an issue that is split down party lines… There are plenty of democrats who are bought and sold by the NRA as well. These are people who profit off of our fear, and they need to be voted out. This is a public health crisis. As Nicholas Kristof wrote (and was proven true), “More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 than on battlefields of all the wars in American history.” Yet we have a legislature that is so owned by the NRA that it doesn’t allow our government to keep statistics on gun deaths anymore, or even STUDY gun violence. President Obama explains this better than I could ever hope to in this video:
This video is so very important for all of us to watch. This situation is not hopeless. There are things we can do to make our world safer. And save lives. If you want to call yourself “Pro-Life,” then BE pro life. We have an election right around the corner. Please–If you care about this, vote in a way that reflects that concern. Twenty of the lives that were lost in Newtown were kids. These 49 young lives taken in Orlando were people’s children. If all of the people who claimed to be Christians voted in a way that reflected actually being “Pro-life” for more than just Life Before Birth, we could actually DO SOMETHING to make these sorts of tragedies less likely. And I realize people will say things like “People who want to murder can do it with a knife or a hammer” or “Cars kill people–should we ban those too?” or some other BS… But here’s the thing: Cars have uses other than killing people. And if this jack hole in Orlando had walked into that night club with a knife or a hammer, there would be a whole lot fewer calls that had to be made to parents, explaining that the child they love has been killed by a madman–A maniac who we have guaranteed the right to freely purchase a weapon of mass destruction. I get it–Murderers are still going to murder… But we don’t have to make it so easy for them.
4. Change Where You Go To Church
If you go to a church that doesn’t welcome queer folks every bit as fully as you would welcome straight people, you can keep your #ThoughtsAndPrayers. The Church was never meant to be a place of exclusion. The way Christians have treated the LGBT community will soon be looked back on in the same shameful way we look back on the way the Church justified discrimination and hatred and exclusion of People of Color and women. If you feel your heart breaking and changing and evolving on the issue of inclusion within Christianity, you don’t have to stay in a place that preaches exclusion. There are other options… Churches like the one my family and I attend. Last year a whole bunch of people from our church went to Nashville’s Pride event, and we walked in the rain along side our LGBT brothers and sisters, as people calling themselves “Christians” shouted hateful garbage through their megaphones. It was lovely… the day was filled with the kindest folks you’ll ever meet. I took my kids. They loved it. Here’s a picture from last year’s Pride:
My life is so much richer for having people in it who are different than me. And belonging to a faith community that reflects that reality has been so life-giving. I feel so sorry for those people who go to a church where they feel like they may be the only person in the building who cried their eyes out watching “Rent.” There is no reason why anyone should feel trapped in a church that is focused on exclusion. If the people you are surrounded with respond to tragedies like the Orlando massacre with demonization of Muslims, blaming of immigrants, calls for even more weapons of war, and silence on the hypocrisy of prayers to a God who supposedly looks on these victim’s orientation as being one that is worthy of death, THERE ARE OTHER PLACES FOR YOU TO GO TO CHURCH. Vote with your feet. Christianity has never been about exclusion. If your church community is more about who it keeps out than who it welcomes in, you are in the wrong kind of church. If Christianity is to be worth anything at all, then we must be allies and advocates and friends to the vulnerable people around us. We must be examples of rational minds and radical love… And not the other way around.
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