Hatred is spiritually and physically deadly. I have witnessed its deadly impact on my LGBTQ community for quite some time, no time deadlier than since we gained the right to same-sex marriage and the right to serve openly in the military. The American public has become more supportive of LGBTQ rights yet with every piece of legislative progress the conservative radical right has done its best to overturn those rights and snuff out our joy. We exist to them as a cause: souls to win for their gods. They offer to broker our wellbeing for submission to their gods. “If you all just xxx then ‘God’ will bless you.” They bristle with disgust when they see us live our lives, loving ourselves and our loved ones.

They pacify their hatred by saying it is us who oppress them because we refuse to comply with their unjust laws and because we have the audacity to rebuke their godly narratives.

Those who were at PULSE Nightclub were not only LGBTQ but also included their straight and cis friends; included some who were in the closet and who now must decide between another lie or to tell their grieving families the truth; a beautiful gathering of young adults – Latinx, Black, Asian, and White. They were having fun! Dancing, drinking laughing, flirting.

More diversity and love in that nightclub than many of our places of worship.

How horrible, this massacre of fifty persons and the wounding of 54 others! It is an indictment of religious and global bigotry. Christians can’t claim a moral high ground because the killer was Muslim. Yes, there are indeed homophobic Muslims but there are also among those who have killed LGBTQ persons over the years, persons who felt duty bound by scripture to cleanse this world of our presence. Politicians ought be careful about using this moment to utter exhortations about radical Islam at large in America preparing to launch a massive attack.

In truth, radical Christianity has been attacking LGBTQ citizens and nonChristians around the world for years.

In America, far too many Christian parents have put their LGBTQ children out on the streets to fend for themselves because they “disapproved with that lifestyle” and considered their response justified because they were “soldiers fighting spiritual warfare for the souls of their children.” Trans women of color have been murdered by Christian men who insisted “that stuff ain’t natural.” Christians are leading the anti-trans bathroom legislation and urging assaults against transpersons who seek to use public bathrooms according to their identities.

So, no, Christians cannot sit on a pedestal of virtue here.

This massacre in a nightclub in Orlando will no doubt plague many loving parents and relatives of young LGBTQ persons and parents of their straight friends. Parents are mindful of the dangers that face their loved ones every day. The desire to keep them safe may likely manifest in understandably major protective actions that may be quite restrictive. Some will see this as the time to encourage those who have left, back to church. However, unless your church, mosque, synagogue, etc. is a safe, affirming space for LGBTQ persons, resist beckoning us to endure religious traumatization under the guise of your prayerful community of “faith.” Instead, communicate, encourage and be a loving presence. In doing so, you will model prayer in action.

In the aftermath of this massacre here are other ways I hope we will respond.

1) Increase your support and love to LGBTQ persons. 2) Write your politicians and demand stronger gun control laws. 3) Lobby politicians and church leaders to end anti-LGBTQ legislation. 4) Insist that our current presidential candidates provide their documented strategies for protecting its citizens from terrorism, domestic and abroad 5) Declare your space a love zone against hateful, discriminatory rhetoric and 6) Don’t feed the trolls.

Let us resist the urge to describe this massacre as the product of only one brand of hatred. In truth, hatred is a complex mass of interlocking bigotries. Put your finger and your hands to the work of supporting the community that gathered at PULSE and for the LGBTQ community globally. Remember our LGBTQ family who live in countries with laws that take them through pure hell.

Know that the task for we who are alive and remain, who work and live in contexts where we can actually make a change, is to call bigotry when it is presented, to fear no manner of hatred and to commit ourselves to the better way of justice and love.

Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey

Rev. Dr. Pamela R. Lightsey is an ordained elder of the Northern Illinois Conference of The United Methodist Church serving as Associate Dean for Community Life and Lifelong Learning at Boston University School of Theology. She is the author of “Our Lives Matter: A Womanist Queer Theology: and
serves as co-chair of the Womanist Approaches to Religion and Society Group of the American Academy of Religion. An Army veteran and mother whose son served in Iraq, Dr. Lightsey is active in social justice ministries but particularly those focusing on global peace, LGBTQ civil rights, eradicating racism and the engagement of viable reconciliation methodologies. RMN’s history and work is contiguous with her own experiences. She has worked with RMN and supported its several programs and is happy to offer her scholarship and ministry skills to the organization. Pamela hopes to help RMN especially to understand and further support the unique challenges of being a queer person of color.
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