I am feeling so intensely and deeply grieved today at the shooting in Orlando at a gay nightclub. Over 100 people targeted. 50 people killed. More than 50 people wounded. It hits so close to home. I am so angry!!! Not just at “The shooter” Omar Mateen, but I feel complicit as a United Methodist pastor. For as long as I have been working with the church (1992 is when I started) we have been wrestling with recognizing the full humanity of gay people. I cannot help but feel that we have added to an atmosphere in the USA where it is O.K. to harm members of the L.G.B.T.Q. I. community.
I say this because killing another human being invariably begins with making “Them” less than human. The evidence I point to is the dehumanizing terms we use in every war for the enemy, “Gook, Raghead, Kraut…,” the list goes on and on. You name the war, you name the conflict, I guarantee you can identify a dehumanizing slang used for the enemy. As much as the United Methodist Church wants to say, “We affirm the worth and value of all people,” to say to the L.G.B.T.Q.I. community, “The way you love is a sin therefore we will not marry you and you are not worthy of ordination” denies a part of their humanity. It makes “Them” less than human. It is not a big step from there to start talking about “Fags-” yet another dehumanizing term referring to people different from “Us.” This is why I feel complicit.
My blog, my coaching, my work as a pastor, my life is dedicated to increasing peace, joy and happiness. Where does happiness meet this heinous, God forsaken tragedy among so many other heinous, God forsaken tragedies over the years? There are a number of places that come to mind:
1) One of the primary means of increasing happiness is through finding your purpose in life and serving others. As I have already spoken to my personal purpose, there are multiple points of finding service in this tragedy…supporting everybody grieving and letting them know they are not alone; working together to find ways of preventing tragedies like this from ever happening again; reaching out to our Moslem brothers and sisters who are working to undermine radical Islam and supporting them in their efforts at counterterrorism; creating systems and structures that show our Moslem brothers and sisters who are feeling alienated and might find radical Islam attractive that they are not in fact alone and there are much healthier ways to address their grievances than what radical Islam has to offer. These are just the thoughts leaping immediately to mind. I am certain that there are many other potential places to serve and care for others in this tragedy.
2) While the above efforts might have the effect of increasing my personal happiness, the effort is actually aimed at increasing our collective peace, joy and happiness. The truth and fact of the matter is that we are not independent. We are dependent…on each other and the rest of life around us. We are in this together. The greater truth evident in the scientific data showing that serving others increases our personal happiness is that we are deeply connected together on this planet. Our destinies are pervasively intertwined. Your peace and happiness increases my peace and happiness. Your pain and tragedy has an effect on my overall wellness. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke a deeply insightful truth when he said, “It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.” My work of growing health, peace, joy and happiness for you affects me…always.