I know I don’t have adequate words in light of the horrifying events in Orlando. Others have already said much more witty and poignant things than I can muster. I have read so many clever tweets and watched so many moving tributes. What more can I offer? If nothing else, I write for my own benefit, but I will do my best to also write something worth sharing.
I’ve been despondent the past couple days, as many of us have, in the wake of the latest mass shooting. I’m brokenhearted because precious LGBTQ lives were targeted and lost, because so many others are injured physically and emotionally and psychologically, because really nowhere is safe. Because weapons are an increasing and continuing threat in my first-world superpower nation, and I just typed “latest mass shooting.” Because there are yet again christians saying awful, insensitive, and/or hateful things. Because I am tired, and I feel helpless.
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in the past several years is the importance of listening to other people’s stories. I first learned this lesson from my many friends in the LGBTQ community, and it has transcended across all my relationships and now my general approach to people and life. [I will have to write a separate post with all the many lessons I have learned from this incredible community.] I have heard them share their experiences and fears and hopes. I have wrestled with theology and what I believe alongside them. I have changed my ways of thinking, believing, speaking, acting, and relating as a result. One of the foremost conclusions I’ve come to is how tired I am of others labeling them as anything more than fellow human beings. Their lives are equally precious and important. To lose 49 people in a vicious attack due to how someone else labeled them… I have no words, just tears.
As sad as I am for the ones murdered, I feel even more deeply for their loved ones grieving for them, for the injured and those caring for them, and for every single person who witnessed the massacre whether injured or not. This violence was not just physical but also emotional and psychological. To fear for your life, to watch others die in front of you. To fear for your son or brother or neighbor, to wait for their call that may never come. And for LGBTQ persons everywhere who are forced to wonder if and when it will be them someday. No one should live in fear like this. Certainly not in this country.
Someday I’ll write a post about all the reasons I’m not patriotic, but for now I’ll just say that I do not think America is a great country. I think we have the potential to be a great country, but when my friends and neighbors fear for their safety, their very lives, because of a pervasive culture of fear, disapproval, and hatred, we have work to do before we can be considered great. And really, it’s not even that we have work to do before we can be considered great [for there is always work to do], it is that there is work to do and nothing being done. Not in the avenues where the work is most needed. I personally could care less about owning a gun, but I am not against you owning one. As long as you have passed tests that qualify you as a responsible gun owner, much like we pass tests qualifying us to drive cars, tools which are neither good nor bad in and of themselves. How many more mass shootings will it take? What targeted group of people will finally cut us to the quick enough to prompt action and legislature? Clearly, college students, muslims, christians, and not even children have been enough. It’s disgusting, and if we want to be a great nation, it must change now.
Greatness is gained by being the last. So said a wise man who was also God. It’s important that we remember and recite things Jesus actually said. Love your neighbor as yourself. Give to anyone who asks of you. Don’t judge others. Love your enemies. There are too many words being spouted off in His name that are not His. Just to be clear, Jesus never said “You reap what you sow” or any other such nonsense. I am so tired of christian phrases and platitudes that are not true. Some of them are found in the bible, but often they are taken out of context and/or twisted from their original meaning. We need some serious myth busting when it comes to these sayings. If you are a christian, be sure to know whether your words can be found in scripture and where. I myself have been intensively debunking these untruths in my own belief system over the last couple years and have been astonished at what I have believed to be truth but could not find in the bible. It is easy to adopt catchy clichés that sound so right, but that doesn’t make them so. We need to be smart and sensitive with the words we choose to use.
I’m just so tired of all of this. And I’m not even part of a persecuted community. But I have friends and family members who are part of various communities that bear the brunt of profiling, discrimination, prejudice, hate, and violence. The closest I come is being a woman living in a rape culture. So what in the world can I do? What should I do?
I sit in my office typing this with my two-month-old in the swing beside me and my two-year-old playing in her rice bucket, naked from the waist down because we’re potty training this week. Glamorous, I know. And I feel helpless in my home, in Small Town, Indiana, to do anything about these things other than pray. But lately, prayer feels helpless, too. Because we’ve been praying for how many victims of violence for how long now? And what has changed?
The truth is, somewhere in my head and my heart, I do still believe that prayer is important, even effective. But I also adamantly believe it is not enough on its own. Because I believe we are to be the answers to our prayers when we are able. I’ve just been struggling to figure out how I can be an answer this week, in this season of my life. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
- I can be outspoken about my support of the LGBTQ community, especially among my christian community.
- I can reach out to my LGBTQ friends and express love and support. I can listen to them as they process these events and their feelings.
- I can read about issues on which I am still ignorant. In my case, I am not ignorant of LGBTQ issues, but I am always eager to read more stories, more perspectives. What I really need though is to educate myself on gun laws, legislative options, etc.
- I can donate blood, even though from Indiana it will not be going directly to victims in Orlando. Hopefully, it will help a fellow human being anyway.
- I can contact my local pride office and ask how I can help. Whether monetarily or with volunteering, small actions add up to change.
- I can write posts like this in hopes that a few people in my corner of the blogosphere will be encouraged and inspired to their own action.
I hope to come up with more ways I can put action behind my prayers. And I am hugely open to suggestions!
If you’re looking for other ideas on how you can act, here are a few links that I found helpful:
I hope this helps you, dear reader, as it has helped me to write it. May we band together in love and unity for a safer, greater future.