June 12, 2016

I sat down this weekend to at long last revisit this deserted task, with a sense of what I wanted to write, but after waking up to the news of another mass shooting, my mind and heart have been otherwise occupied.

I'm not sure there is much that can be written that hasn't already been spoken. The thought I am most occupied by is the fear that the shooting in Orlando will turn into an opportunity to pit the Muslim community against the LGBTQ community. As a believer in Jesus, my further fear is that the Church would start using language about God's righteousness and justice against either community. I hope to God that we all know there is nothing righteous or just in this. I imagine God is weary, even angry, over how his name has been so wildly misappropriated in events that are just as wildly outside of his nature.

Earlier this week I realized that this upcoming Friday marks one year since the shooting in Charleston. This massacre in Orlando, within a week's time of the anniversary of Charleston, is almost too much to bear. I am imagining the families of the victims of the shooting at Emanuel AME Church are experiencing another layer of grief today, as they will this Friday.

As I write, I'm aware of the complexity of emotions in moments like these. Grief and pain are rarely clear-cut. And when we are distant from the tragedy at hand, there is a sense that we cannot know the grief of these families, and, in some ways, part of our challenge is to hold the complexity of emotions. I read the news and watched video of the President and the scene of the crime this morning, feeling grief for my brothers and sisters on the other side of the country and feeling indignation that our lives not be ruled by injustice. I have a responsibility to lament, to remember, to stand with, and a responsibility to walk on with a posture that calls for a different reality.

This means that today I will grieve for the victims in Orlando and their families, for the victims and families of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. I will read the liturgy at church this evening and participate in the eucharist. I will light a candle for the families in Orlando and Charleston, for the homeless man in my community who helped jump start my car, for my unemployed friend, for a friend battling cancer, and for the community of believers––that there would be a collective witness and a cry for God's peace.

In this, I am reminded of Negro spirituals. In Negro spirituals there is a lingering at the wound that bears witness to the bondage of slavery. There is also a collective call for freedom and a disarming hope. The tenor of this profound tradition calls to mind a poem I shared with a friend this week. All weekend I have had this line ringing in my head:

We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world. To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.

As I read the news about Orlando and look ahead to June 17th, I am obliged to the nuance of my own mind and heart. Perhaps the task then is to also light a candle for the friend with a new baby, the couple newly married, my colleagues who are graduating, and a friend's new home.

May we take a nod from the Negro spiritual tradition, lingering in our lament and daring to hope that God will not allow pain without enabling something new to be born.