Grace and peace to and through you
One of the prophets of our time, Chelsea Elizabeth Manning, currently serving a 35-year prison sentence for violating the Espionage Act in the USA, insightfully wrote in the wake of the Orlando killings at the Pulse nightclub, “[our] response can be more dangerous than the attack”. These words are rooted in the sad truth of history. We only have to think of the USA’s response to 9/11.
In moments such as these there is a temptation to reduce the reasoning for such events to a single source rather than a multiplicity of contributing factors that add up to more than the sum of their parts. Single framing is about scapegoating or exploiting the event for a specific agenda rather than unearthing the truth.
The first response by the authorities to the Orlando killings was to singularly frame it as a terrorist attack. This framing conveniently validates the “safety and security” narrative so often used by those in power to extract more and more concessions from the public, resulting in intrusive surveillance and ethnic and religious profiling. It is the purchase of a nation’s freedom using the currency of its fear. This terrorist framing also feeds Islamophobia as if the act of one is representative of all, which is never the case when a Christian commits a similar crime, then it is quickly labeled the act of a lone-wolf who does not reflect Christian values and teaching.
Using a singular frame to hold this event has more to do with blaming others so we don’t have to deal with our own complicity in the killings. Our complicity includes our religions that continue to marginalise Queer people. This includes the position of the Methodist Church that is both contradictory and hypocritical as it seeks to affirm the dignity of Queer people while at the same time stating that Queer people cannot be married and also be a priest. Further our homophobic culture makes it painfully difficult to come out as Queer and our fear of rejection leads to an internal massacre of our own worthiness often ending in suicide, but seldom making headlines. Our complicity includes our addiction to guns and the fear we have to address this issue. Our intellect crumbles in the face of pathetic slogans like “Guns don’t kill people / People kill people”. When actually it is people with guns who kill people – and we do so more easily and frequently with guns than we would be able to do so without guns. Our complicity includes our passive participation in a culture that is overly individualistic denying our interdependence with each other. Our complicity includes our uncritical acceptance of the segregated and homogenous communities we live in, making it easier to “other” others. Our complicity includes our shallow stereotyped understandings of masculinity as if a “real man” were called to be anything other than gentle and respectful of all.
The Orlando killings took place in a nightclub called Pulse. Pulse … as if messaging to those made to feel welcome there: “You have a pulse. You have a heart. You are human!” This is the affirming truth Jesus calls us to live out.
Call to Worship
Grace and peace to you in Jesus, who is killed over and over again when we kill each other,
And also with you.
We gather here in the beauty of this sanctuary to lift up our hearts to you oh Lord and to open our hearts to each other,
As we gather give us assurance Lord that you not only occupy the places of beauty but the places of pain.
The pain of Soweto ?76,
Carry us Lord as Mbuyisa Makhubo carried Hector Pieterson.
The pain of Orlando 2016,
As thousands gathered to donate blood, remind us you have already donated your blood to transfuse our fear and hate into love and respect.
The pain of family murder,
Let the children who have killed their parents hear your voice: “Let the children come to me…”
The pain of domestic violence,
You hear the screams behind locked doors – even celebrity locked doors.
The pain of a British MP and contesting counselor candidates in our land, shot and killed,
You were killed by some who thought killing was the solution, open our minds to see this lie.
The pain of our paralysis and despair,
May we hear today your liberating and healing words spoken to the paralysed: “Pick up your mat and walk … walk humbly, love mercy and do justice”. Amen.