I have lived in Texas for about three years now. My wife Emily and I have three children. We have another two on the way. We have a big family. I am always thinking about their future and what it would be like for them to grow up here. When we first moved to Texas, it took me a few days to realize that difference was not welcome in this state. The people of Texas simply cannot handle difference. What is normative and expected is valued and what is different is silenced, run off and sometimes even disposed of. The chief perpetuators of such backwards thinking…such unchristian thinking…are churches…the people who say that they are the people of God…who say that they have the message of God…the word of God. Tonight, I think we are here due to the words of hate that the people of God have spoken and the actions of hate that they have caused.
We can talk until we are blue in the face about the circumstances of the death of Ty Underwood. We can talk about what actually happened when Ty was killed and what didn’t happen…who was involved and what the motives were. We can speculate about Ty’s death all we want to and not be sure…but we can know one thing for certain…Ty lived in a state that did not value her life and shunned her for her difference.
I am incredibly moved to be here tonight…because looking at Ty’s life from a distance…I can tell she lived her life authentically. I believe the way she lived her life tells us much about what it looks like to follow God…to follow Jesus…to live as God calls each of us to live…to be who God has created us to be. I want to encourage you tonight…don’t let any church…don’t let any pastor…don’t let any religion…tell you that you have to be anything other than what God has called you to be. God is right. They are not.
In conclusion, I call on the Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Catholic, Jewish and many other pastors, priests and religious leaders of this state of Texas…of this city of Tyler…to do right by those who are different. Stop persecuting people. Stop the oppression. Stop the violence. When you talk violently and say violent things…you can expect violent outcomes. Let us be a people whose chief concern is love. Let’s be like Ty. Let us live lovingly as Ty lived. I know that if we follow Ty, we can also say as God would have us say and we can also be as God would have us be and we can also do as God would have us do.