There is a lot I love about my hometown. It’s where I learned to build community, read the Bible, practice simple living, and where I felt free to laugh so hard I could barely breathe. My neighbors knew which teacher I had in school, and they listened eagerly as I proudly recited my fifth grade “God, flag, and country” speech. I am who I am because of their love.
But after the horrific massacre at Pulse in Orlando, Fla., I have a deep fear that some of the same people who loved me as a child think I should be dead because I am gay.
Despite the admirable qualities of my childhood faith tradition, outright and unapologetic hatred of LGBTQ people was a core doctrine. In a worldwide gathering of thousands of believers just three years after I was born, the top official of our church declared, “You should be thankful you're not in the Old Testament times, because there are some of us who would gladly execute [LGBTQ people].”
These sentiments were common and unquestioned. There were catchy songs that called “homo rights … an abomination,” and others that professed the desire to “wash my feet in the blood of the wicked.” (Later in my childhood, that same top official would step down for sexual misconduct.)
That Sunday morning, I fully realized what these words meant: This theology demands my — and my friends’ — torture and death. While admittedly this rhetoric is extreme, it unmasks the ugly thinking undergirding a wide swath of American evangelical theology regarding LGBTQ relationships.
The question on which my childhood tradition and many evangelicals would differ is not whether LGBTQ people deserve horrible punishment for their relationships, but whom should be the one tormenting LGBTQ people, and when.
Instead of explicitly threatening immediate violence against LGBTQ people, many evangelicals simply think this violence will be reserved for the wrath of God in the afterlife.
This viewpoint is what holds many Christians back from affirming the most important and life-giving relationship in many queer people’s lives. But this isn’t the way that Jesus asks us to discern how we uphold doctrines. Instead, Jesus asks us to judge a tree by its fruit.
The bad fruit of non-affirming theology is clear. It has time and again yielded divided families and communities, depression, suicide, and a lack of communal and institutional support for relationships. The consequences of this theology are even starker for queer people of color, who were specifically targeted in the Orlando attack. Yet the good fruit of non-affirming theology is conspicuously absent.
And just what does this theology of eternal conscious torment for queer people have to say to the victims of the massacre in Orlando? Whose side is God on? Does God eternally stand in solidarity with the Orlando killer and his brutality by condemning 49 LGBTQ people and their allies to hell? Is that what “On earth as it is in heaven” looks like?
The life and ministry of Jesus Christ stands in direct contradiction to this viewpoint. Jesus’ ministry brings high the low, and brings low the high. It surprises at every turn, constantly drawing in those religious elites would cast out.
I pray that the pain that I feel from this attack will drive me into deeper commitment to help undo the evil systems that seek to divide our world and perpetuate the virulent Islamophobia, transphobia, homophobia, white supremacy, patriarchy, and classism in our world.
Make no mistake: God is weeping with we who weep. A Christ who became flesh and suffered for us is a God that is standing squarely with the crucified of this world, not the crucifiers.
My beautiful queer family, God is madly in love with us, even unto death and for eternity. No commas, parentheses, or conditional clauses. May we love each other in the same way.