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As with so many moments of carnage in the real world, there’s a lot to learn while skimming through your own Facebook feed.
In the days since the horrific violence in Orlando, I’ve seen people on the fundamentalist side of the Christian theological spectrum scramble for cover.
“Look,” they say. “Look at what those Islamic radicals did! They are the ones to blame. It’s as plain as day.”
The implicit statement they make is this: Don’t look at me. The way I talk about LGBT people and the positions I take on policy issues that effect LGBT people has nothing to do with this act of violence.
Sadly, they miss the point completely. The actions and positions of fundamemtalists has, for far too long, led to the daily suffering of LGBT people.
A Christian fundamentalist didn’t pull the trigger on that night, in that gay club, filled with people, like myself, who go out with friends to dance, laugh, and let loose on the weekend.
But that’s not where the story ends. It’s certainly not where the demonization of LGBT people begins.
The truth is you don’t have to put a bullet in my head in order to wreck havoc on my life. You can infect my psyche with insidious beliefs about myself. You can tear down my spirit by declaring that my love for another man is fictitious. You can dish out seemingly harmless rants, which viciously fan the flames of self-hatred.
It’s not easy, especially as a teen, sitting in a church and hearing that “those gay people” are out to destroy culture itself. It’s not easy when you’re listening to the news and hear a politician refer to LGBT people as being incapable of real love. It’s not easy when people you trust growing up, tell you that if you become gay, you’ll likely become a drug addict or ultimately end up alone.
In all of those settings, until you actually meet other gay people, everything is abstract, except for the feeling that all of those nasty comments are targeted directly at an important aspect of who you are as a person.
I’ve had gay friends who took their own life, largely because of the messages they received from fundamentalist Christian culture, pastors, and communities.
None of my friends, and none of the teenagers who have taken their lives in America, did so because Islamic radicals were threatening their life. None of them decided not living was preferable to living because an Islamic cleric was preaching from the pulpit on Sunday mornings.
No, the demonization, the fear mongering, the denigrating was much closer to home. It was, in fact, in their own back yards. In the church down the street. In the words of the politician from their hometown.
Now, imagine hearing these messages over and over again, which induces self-hatred and seemingly inescapable feelings of worthlessness. First, you hear it from the pulpit. Then you hear it from a bully on the playground. Then you witness it when a teacher doesn’t stand up for you. When all of this adds up, it can become unbearable for anyone to handle.
What’s sad about Christian fundamentalists is they don’t understand the power of words and they only see LGBT people as “issues”. An issue doesn’t stretch when it gets out of bed in the morning. An issue doesn’t inhale and exhale in order to stay alive. An issue doesn’t cry alone in the bedroom at night after a rough day at school. An issue doesn’t experience fear, loneliness, or sadness.
When you keep a whole group of people, mentally in your mind, as nothing more than a set of issues, empathy is sucked out of the picture and it’s easy to say whatever you want, without remorse.
I don’t deny that Islamic fundamentalists truly hate LGBT people. We’ve seen the videos of them throwing gay men off the tops of buildings and mercilessly beheading gay men in the streets.
Fundamentalists of all stripes are so wrapped up in theology, that they are incapable of seeing humanness in front of them. That’s how they can say whatever they want and do whatever they want and never consider that their words or actions might somehow be incredibly damaging. Just because you aren’t physically attacking the LGBT community, doesn’t mean you’re not doing harm.
Fundamentalist Christians will continue to deflect, point to Islamic radicals, and bury the past because deep down they know they’ve spent decades and hundreds of millions of dollars, hell-bent on making the lives of LGBT more difficult. Yet, they will not repent. They won’t even attempt an apology.
This group of Christians will try to deny having any responsibility for violence toward LGBT people. Yet, they are participants in a conga line of animosity toward LGBT people everywhere. They may not be throwing us off buildings or putting bullets in our heads, but they’ve certainly laid the groundwork and started exporting anti-LGBT sentiment across the globe (familiar with “Kill the Gays bill” abroad?).
I am angry. I am sad. I want to love and forgive my own brothers and sisters in Christ, but this forgiveness thing is hard when those you love are continuously wounded by so-called people of faith. Lord, give me strength.