I know it’s unusual to hear from me twice in one week…but this hasn’t been an ordinary week. I’m having a hard time being silent. I figure you don’t have to read it if you don’t want to (smile). I’ve been reflecting this morning on an experience I had last night, and I’d like to share some thoughts with you.
I received an email from the church where we hold our PFLAG meetings letting me know that they were having a prayer service last night in response to the Orlando shootings. I had been longing for a gathering like this so I was happy to see that it was happening so close to home. Now to be honest, nine years ago, I would have never have attended anything that took place in this particular church. Just going to put that out there. But nine years ago, I had God stuffed in a box and I didn’t think that He could handle me attending a service there. A lot of my prejudice was, of course, due to my ignorance. This is an excerpt taken from their brochure:
In addition to holding different beliefs on spiritual topics, individual Unitarian Universalists may also identify with and draw inspiration from many other religious or philosophical traditions.
It was the “other” in that sentence that made me uneasy. I no longer feel that way. I am confident in my belief in God. I am confident in WHO I carry with me wherever I go. I am confident in knowing that I can be with people of possible differing beliefs and be OK. So, last night I really didn’t know what to expect, and I have to tell you it was pretty amazing.
When I entered the building, I immediately felt welcomed. It was a pretty good turn out…young, old, straight, gay. As the service started, I couldn’t help but be tuned in to see what religions I might encounter. The pastor started with a song that was deeply moving to me. Then she gave a message about why we were there. She talked about the violence in the world. She shared the Native American Indian legend of the two wolves inside of us that is from the Cherokee I believe. It describes how we all have both good and evil inside of us (the two wolves) and the one we feed is the one that wins. She then went on to talk about the three common emotions we go through when tragedy like this strikes. She lit a candle representing fear. People were invited to share what they were afraid of and when they were finished we would respond, “You are not alone.” She then lit a candle for sadness, and then anger with the same response for each person who shared. The pastor then talked about what keeps us grounded. It could be something different for each person. It could be spending time with God, prayer, meditation, nature, etc. She passed around little stones and asked us to think about what keeps us grounded and share it with the person next to us. She then talked about what takes us to the next moment. How can we move on from this? We each had a candle and the flame was passed from candle to candle until all the candles were lit. She explained that we are the light of the world and we need to share that light. When we pass our light on to others, our light doesn’t diminish…the light grows and expands and shines brighter into the world.
It was truly a beautiful service. We were just people…honoring and remembering other people. I sat next to a same-sex couple who were holding hands (this was a safe place for that), and I sat behind an opposite sex couple also holding hands. We were just people…being…people. I felt God’s presence there. I felt love there. I felt acceptance there. And it was beautiful.
Why do I share this with you? I know not everyone will have an opportunity to experience something like this where they live. These moments of gathering together are desperately needed. I left there feeling like people cared. I left there feeling united to other humans with a common cause…to love each other and to show that love to the world.
But I also want to reiterate the amount of pain LGBTQ people are feeling…along with their families. There were some young teenagers at the service last night who just couldn’t stop weeping. My heart breaks for them. And parents who thought things might be getting a little better for their kids, with things like marriage equality happening, are now more afraid than ever. We know that this was a terrorist attack, at least as best as the authorities can tell so far. And we know that we are all in danger of that…we get it.
But, there is a difference here. When other terrorist attacks have happened, the nation has rallied together. Is that happening? Yes of course, there is some of that happening, but honestly not in the same way. And in the other terrorist attacks, the only celebrating that happened was from the terrorists themselves. In this instance, we have our fellow-man celebrating. Explicit tweets have gone out announcing the pleasure people have over this attack, pastors have said good riddance…Orlando is a safer place because of the attack, “those people” deserved it, etc. There have been several copycat threats across our country that officials are scrambling to look into. So although we all know that we are in danger of terrorists every day, we don’t have an actual target on our back like the LGBTQ community from not only terrorists, but from their fellow-man.
I’m still hearing over and over again from the moms that the silence from their Christian friends and family is deafening. The posts they do see are generally against terrorism, or about gun legislation, or about how God is love and this wasn’t from God (which is good because there is a lot of the opposite out there that state God ordained the attack). And when friends and/or family do mention their sadness over the attack, it is often mixed in with “Although I don’t agree with their lifestyle choice, they didn’t deserve to die that way.” That phrase “lifestyle choice” is like a dirty word to the LGBTQ community. It is like a slap in the face so it erases any attempt of support that you were trying to give (at least to the people that I know).
I had someone tell me once, “I would share your blog posts, but I’m afraid of what people will think. I think everyone deserves love, but they might think I’m OK with people being gay.” I think this might be the sentiment of many people when it comes to showing gay people support. They don’t want people to think they condone that kind of “behavior.” And believe me…I totally get that because my thoughts and beliefs were there once also. So why is it even a big deal to publicly give your support? Because there is SO MUCH NEGATIVE out there. My son put it like this…
“You don’t look for the negative stuff. You try to stay away from it. But there is so much out there, it has a way of finding you and it just seeps into your soul.”
You know what? God can handle you putting a post out there on FB supporting gay people. What did Jesus do? He hung out with everybody…he was for everybody. You know who he had a problem with it…the religious people who were judgy and showy. You know who Jesus had the sternest words for…the religious people. If you follow Jesus, why can’t you be like Jesus? Your response could be contagious and show that it’s ok to give support. But if you just can’t put it out there, please do it privately. (and the silence comment is meant for people who post about everything – except for this).
Let the LGBTQ community know that you see them, you hear them, and you love them. Send the light of Jesus out into the world. It won’t diminish your faith, or your Christianity, it will grow brighter by being shared with others. And maybe, just maybe, it will be a shield to stop the negative from seeping into the souls of God’s precious children.
I will try to let this go now (smile), and leave you with this…
Love matters…sharing that love matters even more.