If you gathered in a faith community this week to publicly mourn the terrorist attack in Orlando, this post is not about you. If you were able to post in social media threads without qualifying your thoughts about what you can or cannot endorse or agree with, then what I have to say won’t come as a surprise to you. If you can talk with LGBTQ or Latinx friends and withhold any compulsion to offer your opinion about how or why this could have happened, lending your ear with compassion, then – you already get it.
As for the rest of church leadership and laity, those who stood still and said nothing or even worse, took to social media to and the airwaves to add your trademark brand of spiritual bullying to the horrific act of terror that played out in Orlando, announcing the judgment of God on the people of America in the form of a mass murder. To those who would co-opt the platform given to you in the name of Christ for the sake of perpetuating hate, fear and an image of God that is less than love, compassion and grace:
I am asking you to relieve yourself of your duties as the bearers of the banner of Christ.
I find you derelict in the highest priority of our mission. I find you guilty of loving your morals, your convictions and your image of God more than you have shown the Love of God for the lives of the very people Christ came to save. I find you complicit in perpetuating lies, distortions, and graceless accounts intended to instill more fear than peace, to create distance rather than to draw near.
Many of you are quick to point out that this was the act of an Islamic extremist. Let’s be perfectly clear, it was an act that many of you have encouraged and asked for. You have given a green light for this atrocity either directly through your words or by declaring LGBT people as outsiders of your faith. Here are just a few examples…
- Just last week, Focus on the Family Founder declares open season on transgender women declaring that “real men” would protect their wives and children by shooting trans people using the “wrong” bathroom…
- John Piper has repeatedly leaned on the concept of original sin to declare the guilt of all people making them worthy of not only a spiritual but a physical death…
- At a conference attended by then presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee in 2015, Ken Swanson declared that all the gay and lesbian people should be executed – the only question he had was if they should be stoned to death or thrown from a cliff…
- Poplar TV personality and presumed spokesperson of evangelicals Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame declared that we need to “rid the earth” of supporters of same-sex marriage…
- And full circle back to James Dobson, who in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings declared that tragedy to be the result of God’s Judgment on the moral decline of our culture – specifically citing the growing support of same sex marriage…
For years I sought to emulate you and fit into your culture. I talked like you talked, walked like you walked, taught what you taught me to teach, sang your songs, and danced to your rhythm. I attended your universities and preached from your pulpits. However, you obviously are overwhelmed and need a break. Therefore it is no longer your responsibility to make me feel welcome among you. I have no need or desire for fellowship with those who claim the name of Christ yet fail in the most basic elements of his callings on our lives.
You have called for my death. You have suggested I be shot, and claimed that I am a threat. You have cried over the loss of religious liberties that were never truly or exclusively yours in the first place. All the while sitting idly by as my brothers and sisters were killing themselves at unprecedented rates, as we dealt with the depths of depression and rejection by you.
Ann LaMott said “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” To that I would add “condemns the things we fear” and “abhors the things we can’t or don’t want to try and understand.”
I know a simple truth: those with power are rarely willing lay it down on their own accord. So to those following leaders in the church propagating a culture fear and judgment, I invite you to think. Think about the true results of a theology that leads to death, depression, guilt and anxiety. Stop rewarding their destructive mission with your tithes, buying their books, and repeating the distorted messages of who Christ was and who he would have loved or rejected.
Join with those of us who, like you, once stood in the pews and pulpits of our sanctuaries chasing a greater understanding of a God who declared himself beyond understanding. Join us in pursuing a spiritual life based on deep, abiding grace. Join us in calling for a spiritual revolution in the church in America – Consider trading your addiction to knowledge and answers for the undeniable Love of God for all people.
The power won’t be taken from the evangelical, spiritual elite until the masses open their eyes and embrace a greater truth. Stop worrying about this “god-shaped hole in your heart” and let God out of the God-shaped box in your head.
Please hear this as well: you are always welcome at my table.
There will be much to discuss. You will want to know how I understand gender as God created it. You will want to talk about Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6 and a Pauline understanding of sexuality. We will discuss marriage and divorce. We can engage with each other over our understanding the sins of Sodom. There will be time for that, and at the end of the day we may not agree. But you are welcome. Not because I like you, but because I cannot help but love you.
Lay down the banner. Take a deep breath. We will press forward in the name of Christ, loving deeply as we go. While you are resting, ask your God – in whatever way it is you understand God, “What went wrong? Where did we step off course? What should have been our priorities and primary objective?”
Then let God’s answer echo in your ears:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40 (NRSV)