A wicked thought came into my mind when I learned about the shootings in Orlando: This is why people need to read my book. Thankfully, before I could post anything stupid on Facebook, the Holy Spirit convicted me with a second thought: This is why you’re still toxic. I don’t think I’m the only one in the age of social media whose first instinct is to respond to every trending news item by snapping it into the self-justifying narrative called This is why I’m right. There are different versions of this narrative after Orlando depending on whether you line up with Fox News or MSNBC or CNN. This is why Muslims… This is why guns… This is why gay people… This is why evangelicals… This is why those angry, cynical extremists on both sides…
Not everyone who posts a “This is why” on Facebook is coming from the same place. Anybody who found safety and acceptance in a gay nightclub after spending their lives being dehumanized and bullied inhabits a completely different world than I do. For this to happen at the peak of Pride month is utterly devastating to queer people in a way that I cannot possibly understand. I can’t tell you how many queer students I’ve talked to who are literally scared to leave their houses right now. No, they aren’t “exploiting political correctness” or “playing the victim card.” This isn’t a case of “Get over yourself, fragile millennial.” Fifty people are dead because they were gay. We’re not talking in the abstract.
So whatever a queer person says in their grief after Orlando cannot be analyzed as one of the This is why I’m right narratives of postmodern political discourse. That’s not what’s going on with them. It isn’t the ideological game of trying to establish your legitimacy that privileged people like me are playing. The problem is that privileged people like me who have a credibility crisis and guilt complex tend to assume that other people are doing what we’re doing when we try to claim the moral higher ground of victimhood. People in a community that has suffered physical, emotional, and spiritual violence are coming from an entirely different place psychologically than those of us who feel guilty and resentful that we don’t have any -isms to put on our oppression Olympics card.
That’s why it’s disrespectful for me as a straight ally to say something like “We are all gay now.” It’s an innocent mistake because of a well-intentioned meme that got created after the terrorist attacks in France, but it’s affirming a falsehood. What queer people are dealing with now is beyond my comprehension. I’m not allowed to leverage their grief into a supporting clause that shows the world this is why I’m right. I’m also not allowed to manage their grief or instruct them on how to express it.I’ll be honest that I’ve been struggling with the post-Orlando backlash against conservative evangelicals in United Methodism because I’ve been on a trajectory of trying to build bridges, love, and listen to my ideological enemies. People I love and respect are attributing blame in ways that seem hurtful and unfair to other people I love and respect. I want for the Holy Spirit to have the space to convict and heal every heart that is exposed to the rawness of evil without the distraction of commentary that creates resentment and defensiveness. But my sin is wanting to control the conversation. The truth is I don’t know what the Holy Spirit is doing. I cannot discern the difference between the wrath of God and the accusation of Satan when they’re coming from another person. Only God knows what’s really going on.
I wrote a book in which I tried to carefully make a case in evangelical terms for a more inclusive Christian theology. It’s about way more than the status of queer people, but it’s based partly on the grace that I found in a queer United Methodist church. And so there’s a part of me that just wants the angry lesbians to stop yelling so I can straight-white-man-splain my better Christianity to the evangelicals. In other words, yet again, it’s all about this is why I’m right. Thankfully God has been dealing with my ego. I just got a message yesterday from a moderate evangelical friend who read my book and wanted to warn me that he was going to destroy it in a review. So maybe I’m not the gracious, reasonable voice I think I am.
In any case, I believe Jesus was crucified in that nightclub in Orlando. I believe the blood of Abel is crying out from the ground to God. After Peter preached his first sermon in the Jerusalem Temple and called out the crowd for crucifying their messiah, the Bible says they were “cut to the heart.” I’ve come to believe that the holiest thing that can happen to us is for the Holy Spirit to cut our hearts when we see the rawness of evil and suffering without immediately saying this is why I’m right. We need to give the Holy Spirit the space to wound us and heal us through that wounding.
It’s complicated. Part of giving the Holy Spirit space is letting other people say whatever they need to say since I don’t know what God has put on their hearts. God is using and convicting them in ways I cannot see. I am convicted of my need to stop saying this is why I’m right. It’s time to learn. It’s time to repent. It’s time to heal. Each of us is called to do that in a different way. Our main focus right now should be showing our love for the queer community. Period.