America has a problem.
Several problems, actually.
We have a problem with guns. We have a problem with Muslims. And we have a problem with LGBTQI+ people.
And this weekend, all three of those problems came together in an orgy of violence and hate-based reactions to that violence.
America has problems. Problems we can’t solve with a paradigm shift in how we understand and engage with the world.
I first heard the news out of Orlando early yesterday morning, after getting up to get ready to head for work at All Souls. Once I resolved to write about it, my first instincts were anger, frustration and vitriol towards those I know perpetuate these kinds of things in our society.
That was my instinct throughout the day, as news unfolded and the death toll rose about 50. Every time I opened Facebook, I saw the anguished, fearful and rage-filled reactions of my LGBT friends, and their many allies. And so anguish, fear and rage is what I continued to feel as well.
I felt (and feel) rage about the fact that, after hundreds and hundreds of deaths, this country still would rather worship the false god of the 2nd Amendment, and his consort, the false goddess of money, than respect and value the worth of human bodies. It fills me with rage that a small minority of special interests refuses to allow us to engage the very really problem of gun violence, a problem that only seems to exist in America.
I feel rage that this catastrophe will be used to create hate and fear towards our Muslim brothers and sisters, all of whom are love-filled, peaceful human beings, children of God like you and I. Instead of knowing that, elements of our society (led by a certain opportunistic, xenophobic presidential candidate) will use this as an opportunity to spread hate and Islamaphobia, casting the guilt of a small number of violent cretins who misuse the name of the Prophet (PBUH) to spread their medieval ideology onto an entire religion.
And it fills me with rage that again – AGAIN – our LGBTQI+ siblings have been targeted by regressives with violence, and have again become victims of hate just because of who they are. Again, they must be explicitly reminded they everyday they have to live in fear. But what really fills me with rage is that the very “leaders” and bigots who fan the flames of hate – who spend all their time bemoaning the supposed dangers of LGBT people marrying who they love, using the restroom and the dressing room, even just existing, those who use religion and “Common sense” to spread hate speech and state that LGBT people are somehow subhuman and unworthy of the same rights and privileges as other human beings – these folks will be taking to Twitter and Fox News to offer “thoughts and prayers” and talk about how we need “Biblical values” right now. These people have blood on their hands, and it is awfully rich of them to act anguished and upset now, when this is merely the logical outcome of their rhetoric and actions.
This is the rage I felt, and that I still feel.
Last night, I attended a beautiful Taize service at Trinity Episcopal Church here in Tulsa. It was just what my soul needed after the feelings evoked by Orlando. The quiet, the dark, the candles, the beautiful music – perfect.
And it was during the times of silence and prayer in that beautiful space, that I began to feel rage dissipate as the primary feeling I had. Instead, as I sat there, and I experienced the love of God, I felt a new feeling: hope.
I know that’s easy for me to feel, as a white male in Tulsa. I didn’t lose any loved ones yesterday. I didn’t have my community, my existence, attacked yesterday, and everyday for years and years.
But hope is what I feel now. Hope that maybe this time, this horrific, terrible, unspeakable event, will be the one that tips the scales.
I have hope that maybe the scale of this atrocity, perpetuated by a man who was on terrorist watch lists but still able to purchase guns, will wake us up to the absolute necessity of common sense rules around the purchase of guns, and a better sense of the culture of violence gun culture creates.
I have hope that it will be this that wakes people up to the fact that the rhetoric and language used by so many in this nation about LGBT people is unacceptable and dangerous. Maybe people’s hearts will be thawed as a result of the very human nature of this tragedy, by the images of bodies no different that yours and mine, cast down and lifeless. Maybe we can take a big step forward here in accepting our LGBT siblings for who they are, acknowledging their inherent worth for who they are.
And I have hope that maybe we will be strong enough and mature enough to not blame our Muslim brothers and sisters for the actions of this man, or the actions of ISIS or Al Qaeda or any other group or person who hijacks their faith for their own selfish reasons. I have hope that, as we watch American Muslims rally with us in support of peace, we will begin to see that they worship the same God the rest of us do, and that at the end of this life, they will join us in the next life just like everyone else. I have hope that we will see past the demagoguery and hate of those asking to lead us, that we will not succumb to racism, xenophobia, fascism, but instead we will rally together as a nation around love and hope.
In the face of the great tragedy and sickness we see in Orlando, I have hope. I have rage, but I also, overwhelmingly, have hope.
I have hope because, after leaving Taize last night, I saw images and words from the vigil held here last night at the Majestic club, of people of all walks of life and religions and backgrounds, coming together to support one another and demonstrate that, in the end, love wins. Hate and violence will always fail. Love and acceptance wins in the end, because God is love and we are walking images of that Love and that Love can’t lose.
So, grieve, hurt, cry, scream, rage. Recognize that we have big problems as a society. It’s right to do so, and you should. But have hope. The night is darkest before the dawn, but the dawn WILL come.