Love or Hate? Heaven or Hell?
Saturday, June 11th at Noon, at Copley Square, thousands of folks gathered to join in Boston's annual Pride Parade. Black and white folks, young and old, gay, bisexual, transgendered, lesbian and straight, people of many religious persuasions, and some of none--all sorts of folks, joining in a festive celebration. Among them, my granddaughter pictured above on the right, chatting away with one of her friends. She and one of her moms, my daughter Liz's partner Erica, had a grand time. It was like heaven on earth.
Not much more than twelve hours later in Orlando, where two more of my granddaughters live, a man bent on terror and hate, blasted his way into a gay nightclub, filled with more folks celebrating life, dancing into the wee hours, and killed fifty, while injuring fifty-three more. Blood and weeping soon spread into the night. It was like hell on earth.
As a grandfather, it all scares me. What if that hatred had spewed out over the parade in Boston? What if...
But then I stop, and realize I'm thinking exactly the way hatemongers and terrorists want me to think. I am succumbing to fear. And that can only get in the way. For fear breeds all sorts of distorted thinking, distorted responses.
I can't help but wonder, for instance, what sort of fears prompted Pastor Stephen Anderson in Tempe, Arizona, to record a video message saying in reference to the Orlando shooting, "The good news is that there's 50 less pedophiles in this world, because you l know, these homosexuals are a bunch of disgusting perverts and pedophiles. That's who was a victim here, a bunch of, just disgusting homosexuals at a gay bar, okay?" (www.patheos.com) Well, no, Pastor Anderson, it is not okay. It is no more okay than the shootings in Sandy Hook or Blacksburg. It is no more okay than the shootings in Charleston or Aurora. The folks killed in Orlando, were all sons and daughters, grandchildren, of those who now grieve. And more than that, they were, and are, sons and daughters of God. And God also weeps.
The first report I read after the incident, said officials were trying to determine if this was a hate crime. I realize there is a technical definition of a hate crime. But make no mistake. This was, in every sense of the word, a hate crime. But hate mustn't be allowed to prevail. Fear must not be allowed to grip our hearts. There are many things we must say and do in response I am sure. I am not sure what all the answers are to assuring the safety of my children, and yours as well, but of this I am sure: whatever we do, must grow out of love, for hatred only breeds more hatred. Love alone can change us. Love alone can save. But love takes work. Hard work, complicated work.
I say all this as a grandfather who wants only the best for his family and yours as well. I say it as a Christian pastor. I say this knowing we can choose--heaven or hell. Love or hate.
(Photo Credit: Erica Edwards)