When worship began last Sunday morning, we had only begun to get reports out of Orlando of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub. We now know that forty-nine lives were taken that night, almost all of them members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community, and almost all of them Latinx. Rumors are still circulating about the gunman's motivations, but we know that he (like many of the other men across America who have targeted minorities and marginalized communities in mass shootings) had a history of violence.
As a gay woman, I am still in deep grief over this massacre. I am still struggling to put into words how vulnerable this makes the whole LGBTQ community feel. I keep running through memories of dances at clubs, marches at Pride Festival, rallies at the legislature -- all times when I was vulnerable to violent attack because I believe that God made me beloved exactly as I am. This week my partner Michelle and I have been afraid to hold hands in public, more aware of potential attacks than we have been before. Already we are hearing that Westboro Baptist Church will be protesting at victims' funerals, where they will likely hold signs and blast music at full volume declaring God's absolute hatred for the victims and delight in their deaths.
In addition, the Muslim community in America is experiencing significant backlash over the attacks. Many Islamic groups (including the Minnesota branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations) immediately responded to the attacks with rejection and condemnation of the shooter's supposed ties to Islam. The majority of the Muslim community continues to reject violence and murder, yet the actions of a few are often applied to the whole. I am reminded of last year's massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, carried out by a young man who belonged to the very same denomination we do. The violence of one does not always reflect the values of the whole, and when the majority of Muslims condemn violent attacks, I am asked to listen to those voices. To that end, I will be attending the iftar hosted at First Lutheran in Columbia Heights this coming Wednesday. An iftar is the celebratory meal that ends the day-long fast Muslims perform during the month of Ramadan. This iftar is open to the public and I invite you to join me -- you may RSVP here.
There are a number of vigils scheduled for Sunday evening to remember the victims. Gustavus Adolphus has invited us to join them for a service at 8pm.
I will also be joining an ELCA Young Adults webcast on Sunday evening -- a live video chat among nine young adult leaders in the Christian church that will discuss and reflect on the shooting in Orlando.
Worship on Sunday will offer some time for prayers for the victims of the Orlando attacks. I also invite you to reach out to LGBTQ family and friends -- this is an incredibly painful week for us, and every word of support and love counts.
In peace and hope,