No Separation: Struggling With Orlando

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Paul in Romans 8: 38-39 

I have been holding a lot of complexities in recent days. I had a wonderful birthday week with multiple celebrations, got to spend a couple days with my family at a lovely beach inn in Pacific Grove, and took our son to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for the first time.  I received some magnificent purple hydrangeas and had a feast after worship last Sunday and a barbecue with friends.  I was honored at the South Alameda County NAACP Clergy Appreciation Dinner and had the good fortune to sit around a table last night in our suite connecting with a gaggle of Hayward/East Bay UCC clergy folks that I love at NCNC Annual Gathering.

But, like you, I can’t stop thinking about the hate crimes against the lgbtq community in Orlando. I am grieving and sad. I am angry about the media spin about “terrorism,” and “radical Islam” that glosses over complexities and fires up more violence. I am troubed that these crimes largely targeted members of lgbtq communities of color-particularly the Latinx community.

Here are some complexities I would like for you to hold with me, with the help of our Still-Speaking God: There are many lgbtq Muslims- the two are not mutually exclusive. These attacks had a strongly racial component that we must not ignore. The gunman chose "Latin Night" at the club to attack. The gunman may have been struggling with his sexual orientation. We have got to deal with the violence in our hearts and the gun culture in our nation. And conservative lawmakers and many Evangelical and Mainline Christians are complicit in these attacks because they have been directing spiritual, verbal, legal and physical violence toward the lgbtq community (or watching while it is directed and doing nothing) for a very long time.

The violent soul damaging sin that we are struggling with right now is homophobia. At United Church of Hayward and in the United Church of Christ, we protest, we work for change; we publicly declare our status as an Open and Affirming, Welcoming congregation. We work to go deeper and understand our call to love, and we resist homophobia in many of its overt forms as seekers of justice.  The overt violent forms of homophobia (such as the hate crime in Orlando) are perhaps a little easier to see and confront. But it’s the invisible internalized homophobia that get slippery. Internalized hatred/homophobia is deadly for all of us. We must be vigilant and resist it as well. 

Many of us in the lgbtq community are struggling because the homophobia/hatred we have internalized and the trauma we have experienced over the years has been triggered by these tragic attacks. I keep remembering the violence and pain (The name-calling, the epithets sprayed on my car, the bible quotations, the decrees that I was going to "burn in hell," the spit running down my face at a protest, the death threats I have received in ministry that I have fought not to internalize). I feel scattered and achy. I berate and question myself. I am having trouble focusing. I want to stay close to my family and hug them a lot.  I have heard similar reports of overwhelm, vulnerability, and struggle from you, and many other folks this week. - especially from my lgbtq clergy sisters and brothers.  We are holding a lot for our beloved communities right now. And many of us are doing it with grace, with strength, and with the help of God.

It has always been pivotal for me to remember as I am triggered and questioning myself, and trying to find the ground while wrestling with sins like internalized or overt homophobia and the trauma that comes with them that, as Paul writes to the church in Rome, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God.”  Not death or life. Not acts of violence, hatred, and evil.  Not homophobia (overt or internalized).  “Nothing in all creation” can separate us from the love of God. Nothing. But sometimes we have to fight, move gently, love with vulnerability, ask for help, be still, and care for ourselves unapologetically so we can hear God’s voice and feel God’s unwavering presence over the chaotic din around and in us.  We have to resist lashing out and blaming. We have to keep our hearts open, even when we want to lock them away for safekeeping. For many of us, now is one of those times. 

As we do the work that is next- the work of loving and supporting our lgbtq and Muslim brothers and sisters in Hayward- as we contact our representatives, protest, and confront our nation’s gun culture - as we follow our call to love radically, to hold the complexities, to refuse to internalize hatred/homophobia, to release the trauma, and to go deeper- I invite you to join me in loving, and taking care of yourselves and listening for the voice and feeling the loving embrace of our Still-Speaking God.

I promise to listen and feel that embrace with you - and to take care of myself as I am called to serve, challenge, and take care of you. 

Warmest Regards and Blessings,   -Rev. Jeanne