Another day, another U.S. mass shooting.
By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the senseless act of violence that stole the lives of 50 people and injured 53 more at Pulse, a gay nightclub, in Orlando, FL. Omar Mateen, an Islamic American, decided to act on his homophobic religious attitudes by slaughtering innocent people simply out to have a good time in what should have been a safe space to celebrate their identity. While there is much to discuss in the sociopolitical undertones of Mateen being (rightfully) identified as a terrorist when white men who perpetrate acts of domestic terrorism are never labeled as such, we cannot ignore how people of faith have been complicit in the environment that incubates these types of attitudes and behaviors.
Religious attitudes are not isolated to Islam.
Although Mateen is of the Islamic faith, religious attitudes that give way to these behaviors are not isolated to Islam. Christians have long referred to LGBTQIA people as a “lifestyle choice” or “agenda”. We continue to perpetuate violence against LGBTQIA identities when we refer to their bodies and mere existence as a choice. Each time we make this statement, we enable the idea that LGBTQIA are “other” identities that are less worthy of love, safety, and the pursuit of liberty and happiness. When we take on these attitudes and perspectives as our personal doctrine, we have taken the gospel of Jesus Christ that was meant to liberate and turned it into an oppressive doctrine of terrorism. We are called to heal pain, not cause or be indifferent to pain. Yet, despite knowing that, we continue to isolate not only LGBTQIA identities in general but also those who identify as LGBTQIA and people of Abrahamic faiths.
Our faith was not created to birth or incubate hatred.
For those of us who know better of these attitudes yet still sit in silence rather than correcting our brothers are sisters, our burden of guilt is much greater. Our complicit inaction in this enables people like Mateen to justify their actions. We have to sit in the discomfort of this knowledge and decide how and when we will do better to protect those whom we have been commissioned and called by God to love.
We cannot continue to justify the gospel of oppression while claiming to serve a God of love and a savior who came to free us. While these attitudes are certainly not limited to any particular race of Christians, it is imperative to speak directly to Black Christians and how we too enable these acts of violence. We have allowed our pulpits to echo sentiments of LGBTQIA identities as an abhorrent lifestyle choice because “the bible tells us so.” Yet, we ignore that the eisegesis of the text has been used to marginalize is as a people.
Eisegesis: the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that the process introduces one’s own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text. This is commonly referred to as reading into the text. The act is often used to “prove” a pre-held point of concern to the reader and to provide him or her with confirmation bias in accordance with his or her pre-held agenda. Eisegesis is best understood when contrasted with exegesis. While exegesis is the process of drawing out the meaning from a text in accordance with the context and discoverable meaning of its author, eisegesis occurs when a reader imposes his or her interpretation into and onto the text. As a result, exegesis tends to be objective when employed effectively while eisegesis is regarded as highly subjective.
Just this past week, a white Georgia politician invoked the word of God to bring a curse of death upon POTUS Obama. Historically, the word of God has been used to justify our social position as less than that of whites and enabled slavery, Jim Crow, systemic disenfranchisement, and modern-day state executions by the police. Yet, we as marginalized people have become willing to crush people who look like us beneath our feet simply because they love differently than us. This perverse desire to become the oppressor has driven us to embody the same attitudes we detest when the violence is redirected towards us due to the color of our skin, an identity that we also had no choice in.
It’s time to stop meeting tragedy with empty prayers
While the events of this weekend are gut-wrenching, they have not occurred in a vacuum. We cannot feign outrage nor surprise when we are participants in behaviors that encourage and enable these attitudes everyday. We as Christians should not DARE persecute our Muslim brothers and sisters when on any other day, we are quick to condemn LGBTQIA folks to hell. We cannot continue to offer words of prayer that aren’t accompanied with a raised consciousness and awareness of our duty and obligation as people of faith to be a reflection of God’s love to ALL men. We cannot continue to avoid our discomfort with the misalignment of the gospel of love by claiming to love the sinner but hate the sin.
Jesus came that we might have life and have life more abundantly (John 10:10). Abundance does not give room to continued injustice. Abundance requires love, political action, and justice for all.
Image Credits: Kelvin Cobaris, a local clergyman, consoles Orlando city commissioner Patty Sheehan (right) and Terry DeCarlo, an Orlando gay-rights advocate, as they arrive on the scene near where at least 50 people were reportedly shot and killed in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)