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After Orlando

June 14, 2016

I hesitate to speak, in moments like these, when political ideologies, religious convictions, and personal wounds lead many to pile hate on top of such horrifying events. I hesitate because the extreme and frequently hurtful remarks remind me of the power of our speech. I hesitate because I know that my own perspective and understanding are so limited.

But conversations like these are important for exactly those reasons. We all have unique perspectives that cause us to see the issues that surround this tragedy from different angles. We need one another, to learn from one another, if we want to grow and understand more fully. And the words we say do have power, not only to wound and destroy, but to heal and provoke necessary change.

Conflicting pictures of the Orlando shooter are being reported by those who knew him. I don’t think it’s possible to determine his motives, with certainty, from the little bit of information that is coming out in all of the stories about Mateen or his atrocious act. Were his reported regular visits to Pulse a man casing his future target and stirring himself up to carry out his evil plan? Was he perhaps trying to change his own mind? Or did the shooting arise from the self-loathing and anger of a man who was wrestling with his own sexuality and struggling for air as the suffocating message that he was unacceptable continued to close in around him?

Whatever happened, those of us who are not part of the LGBT community need to do better. Especially the church.

Yes, we should pray for those who lost loved ones. We should pray for the survivors who narrowly escaped with their lives and for the people who love them. We should pray for the LGBT community as they deal with this trauma, because they were also victims of this hate crime. But we should also be praying for wisdom and understanding. That God would show us how to truly love and support this community. That we would recognize the subtle, unloving things we do on a regular basis. That we would begin to understand why so much emotion and volatility characterize the continuing dispute between the conservative Christian community and the LGBT community.

I’ve never had any uncertainty about my own sexuality or gender identity. I’ve never been sexually attracted to a woman. I can’t relate to the LGBT community in that way. But I understand that my position is a position of privilege. I am fortunate because I’ve never had to wrestle with something leaders in my community were calling sinful, unacceptable, or even disgusting. I am fortunate because I’ve never had someone use the Bible as an excuse to condemn, mistreat, or rejected me for such an immense and personal issue.

There’s a reason the LGBT community feels hated by the church. And it isn’t that these are a bunch of touchy people who take everything personally. It’s about the way we handle homosexuality and gender identity. It’s about the words we say. The organizations we support. The way we talk about the “gay agenda” or “threats against the sanctity of marriage”. The way we rush to defend and rally behind a person or business when the LGBT community speaks up and says they feel attacked by them.

Unless someone is a brother/sister in Christ who has invited us into that part of their life and asked for our opinion on homosexuality, we should probably be a bit slower to tell everyone what we think or what we believe the Bible is saying about it. And when that invitation is given, our response should involve a lot of prayer. Sexuality is not as simple as we like to pretend.

And in the times when we are shouting at people who are not Christians, shaming them and telling them how they should live, we accomplish more evil than good. Sinlessness, apart from God, is meaningless. We were meant to be known by our love. A light to the world. People who share the good news of a loving God. We were not set apart to be a people who alienate, judge, and condemn the lost as they languish, far away from any knowledge of the love of God.

You can disagree with someone and still love them. And I understand that correction is often the most loving thing we can do. But only when it is correct and happens in an appropriate context. I think this is one of those areas where most of the Church is missing the mark and falling short of love.

My heart breaks for the victims of the Orlando shooting. Those who died. Those who survived. Those who lost loved ones. Those whose loved ones survived. Those who were nowhere near those bullets, but are victims of the same hatred, wounded again by an unthinkable crime against their community.

I do not doubt that I have said many ignorant and insensitive things, throughout my life. Especially during the years that I was involved with a “relational wholeness” ministry that essentially practices conversion therapy. To any friends that I may have wounded with offhand remarks or unsolicited opinions, I appologize and hope that you will forgive me. And to my LGBT friends, I ask that you would help me recognize and understand ways in which I continue to err or fall short of loving you well.

My ex-boyfriend married a man this week. Had I been able to make the trip, I would have been at his wedding. I love him and I am thrilled to see him so happy and… healthy. And I am saddened by the knowledge that many in our former community would now reject him.

Most of my friends who are gay and have tried to change themselves to be more “acceptable” have not found much life in those endeavors. And it isn’t for lack of commitment, desire, or effort. I have watched people I care about isolating themselves and drowning in self-loathing because they have been unable to “fix” themselves and God has not answered their fervent prayers. Shouldn’t we be loving the ones wrestling with these questions, rather than reinforcing the hateful messages that drive them into such conflict with themselves?

I’m not going to make any declarations in support of or against homosexuality. I will say this…

I am absolutely, without question, for the LGBT community. Human beings, worthy of love, respect, and compassion. The greatest difference between us is that questions of gender and sexuality have never complicated or brought so much pain into my own life. I have not suffered as my LGBT friends have often been made to suffer.

It is my hope and my prayer that we would not drift so readily into polarizing debates. That we would humble ourselves and engage in honest conversation, with an earnest desire to hear and understand. After such an expression of hatred, let us draw together and love one another as we mourn. And let us unify to work toward a safer, more accepting world for those among us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered.

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