I don’t know how I could’ve handled the Orlando massacre if it hadn’t happened on a Sunday, if I hadn’t been able to go to church. My faith is hardly passable most days. I’m committed to Christ but I skip a lot of sundays, and I have a lot of theology that’s tied up in questions I can’t answer, a brain that is steeped in doubt, a rebellious heart that wanders off, and a smart mouth. But when Orlando happened, I felt like I was going to die. I needed prayer. I needed communion. I needed a hymn. I needed a pastor to speak on this and not bury it, or explain it neatly, or whitewash it, or make it all about gun violence and not about the relentless fury of Christian America’s hatred towards LGBTQ people. Thank God, my brother is a pastor.
I stood in the pews and wept as my brother called out the homophobia and racism of our society and our church, and then as he led us in a prayer of repentance. I needed to repent, too. I can be the worst ally to others, and to myself.
Following the service, I went to the vigil with friends in Loring Park. Still raw, I watched politicians take the stage and cringed at their grandstanding and the hoorahing they received and instead cast my glance around and saw all the people I knew. All the men and women I had met at clubs and bars, wrapping their arms around each other, crying, clenching their fists, then throwing them up boldly. We lit candles and the gay men’s chorus sang. We held hands, because sometimes that’s the only answer.
Pastors and Rabbis and Imams took the stage and my heart leapt. Prophetic passages were read and we were reminded that we all belong together and together we will overcome. In my head, I kept hearing that line of Jesus, “where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them.” And I opened my eyes and there he was.
There has been a lot of conversation about how the Church had a hand in the violence that took place Sunday. I agree with that. When you sow seeds of homophobia and racism, hatred and violence, do not be surprised by the poisoned fruit you reap. When you suddenly care about us only in the aftermath of a massacre, after years of demeaning and ridiculing us, and yet- AND YET STILL feel the need to qualify your statement with a summary of your theological opinion on sexuality and gender, do not expect a thank you. I am admittedly hypersensitive right now, but if I see one more status or tweet about Orlando that doesn’t make mention of the fact that this was gay club that was targeted… I’m going to break my laptop against the wall and I can’t afford another one.
Another strand of the conversation I keep hearing that I really hope to hear differently are the straight Christians chastising other straight Christians with variations of an old argument: if straight conservative Christians don’t get their shit together, LGBTQ people might never know the love of God. A whole generation’s attitude towards faith will be tainted. LGBTQ people will leave and it will be all our fault. It is very hard to see why I might be frustrated with this sentiment, written as it is out of love and righteous anger over the very very real damage done by church people.
But it is only half the story. And when it’s told this way, it suggests that somehow approval from straight Christians is the only way we get God. It keeps LGBTQ people categorized amongst those that need to be ~reached~, when the truth is, God has been reaching us all along, as he’s always done with the marginalized. It’s the other half of the story that isn’t being told, and the one that turns from the ugliness of oppressive Christians to the faithfulness of God to his people. It’s one in which God is centering LGBTQ people as the leaders of his Church.
According to Pew Research, 48% of LGB people identify as Christians. 48%. Forty-Eight Percent. That’s half. That’s major. It’s stunning. It makes zero sense and yet complete sense when you consider what concerns our Lord. And while the rest of the country has slowly moved away from faith, LGB people have been trending towards it. (an aside: I’m unsure why trans folks and others weren’t included in this survey.)
And this is what I love about God: The Church has driven out LGBTQ people for centuries, with an especially intense malice over the last several decades, and in response to this, God just says, okay, fine, we’re good out here. Where you chase my people, I will be with them. Where they gather, I will be there. Clubs. Conversations. Protests. In lament and anger and tears and laughter and way too many drinks. I will be with them and make this right for them. I will love them more fiercely for their wounds. I will draw them close. I will know them and they will know me. They will tell you my name.
A survivor of the night club saved one of the bartenders. In a statement, he said: “I felt God put me at the club and made me stay behind to help a complete stranger. For whatever reason that may be….I don’t know, but I do know it was hopefully to save his life,”
God was at the club, because God lives in clubs. God lives in the homeless shelter and the street corner, the hospital bed and the drag show. God lives in the queer community. His true home has always been with the oppressed.
I want to talk about this, because if you’re looking for the faithful to lead the conversation, here we are. If you’re looking for God in all of this, here we are. The LGBTQ movement has the breath of God in its’ sails. The breath of God is in our lungs. God is at home within us. So if you’re trying to sort out where God is in all of this, what God is trying to tell you in your heart, turn to us and find him. We’ll show you.