Monday, June 20, 2016

"Churches Will Be Marked in the LGBT Community for Years to Come by How They Respond to Us in This Moment": More on Themes of Erasure and Absence of Christian Solidarity with LGBTQ People Post-Orlando

As this new work week begins, more on the erasure of queer people from an act of mass murder of queer people, and on Christian solidarity with (or its absence from) the LGBTQ community in the wake of Orlando — these are comments dealing with the Christian churches in general; a Catholic-specific posting will follow:

Julie Rodgers addresses church folks: 

It's always right to grieve with those who are grieving. We've heard your outrage over Target, Chick-fil-A, and the bathroom bills. Where is your outrage when LGBT people are slaughtered?

Zack Ford points out that the attempt of religious and political conservatives to erase queer people from the narrative about Orlando is part and parcel of tactics these groups always use to stigmatize and make LGBTQ human beings invisible: 

Since news first broke Sunday morning of the mass shooting in a gay nightclub in Orlando that left 50 people dead, there has been a concerted effort from conservative politicians, religious groups, celebrities, and even the media to erase LGBT people from the story. 
This is not a coincidence nor an accident. In fact, it's simply a continuation of the tactics regularly used to perpetuate stigma and discrimination against the LGBT community. . . . 
The erasure may feel unique to the extremity of this particular tragedy — but it's actually at the crux of the entire struggle for full LGBT equality. The modern movement opposing LGBT equality is built entirely upon the strategy of framing non-LGBT people as victims.

Mark O'Connell contests the right-wing meme that this was an "attack on America," not on queer people, as he tells those with LGBTQ family members that their silence about and invisibilizing of their queer relatives kills: 

All queer people are equally in the crosshairs of homegrown hatred. Our straight families and friends need to recognize this openly and explicitly. . . . 
To call what happened in Orlando an "attack on America," or the act of a "radicalized Islamist," or not to call your LGBT family members at this time, sends the message: "Things are just as bad for you as they are for me." And that is simply not true. 
As The New York Times reports, "LGBT people are more likely to be targets of hate crimes than any other minority group"—and that cannot be pinned on radical terrorists from the Middle East. More than anything else, these specific attacks are due to the socially conditioned fear and hatred of women and of gender nonconformity, and of effeminate men, and of men kissing, and of same sex love. And all of this untalked about—and therefore unprocessed—hatred is cultivated and maintained through complacent silence by neighborly, law-abiding citizens like you and me, right here on our homeland. Every time we fail to use words to make explicit links between queerphobia and attacks on queer people, the hatred, fear and danger grow stronger. (For example, a disturbingly ironic post by a straight woman announcing her engagement popped up on my Facebook feed this week, including a photo of her diamond ring and a shot of the Orlando skyline from the boat on which she and her fiance were celebrating, along with happy, hopeful thoughts about their heteronormative future, yet she wrote nothing about the 49 murder victims whose futures were taken from them by an act of homophobia only days before in that very city, or about the queer individuals still alive whose futures will continue to be plagued by hate, fear and danger).

Matthew Vines tells the church that it will bear a mark — for weal or for woe — that will be determined by how it has responded to LGBTQ humanity and LGBTQ need in light of Orlando: 

It didn't help that we were faced with the news of the slaughter on a Sunday, a day that already serves as a reminder of how unwelcome we are in most traditional sanctuaries. For the nearly 50% of LGBT Americans who are Christians, as I am, it only compounded the pain to have our faith leaders either ignore the massacre, qualify their condolences in ways they never would for other victims, or simply omit the fact that LGBT people were targeted for death because of who they are. . . . 
If there were ever a time to give that sermon [affirming that God loves LGBTQ human beings unconditionally] —and to give it with genuine humility, compassion and an openness to learn and grow—now is the time. Churches will be marked in the LGBT community for years to come by how they respond to us in this moment. Please do all you can to let that mark be one of unconditional love.

Alan McCornick notes how curious it is that many Christians can freely admit that the bombing of a synagogue is about anti-semitism and the bombing of a black church is about white supremacist racism, but the mass murder of LGBTQ people in a gay bar is about something else than homophobia: 

I've lived my life as a gay man in an intensely homophobic environment, so you know why I'm inclined to think this is primarily about homophobia. Forgive me if the blood starts to boil when I take note of church spokespeople and other religionists who insist on downplaying the sexual orientation of most or all of the 49 people in a gay bar in Florida as coincidental. When synagogues are bombed, it's about anti-semitism. When four little black girls were killed in a black church, it was about white supremacist racism. 
There are always people, apparently of good will, quick to stress this is not just a Jewish/African American/fill in the blank tragedy. It's a human tragedy. And why can't we all just get along? 
Such misplaced attempts at solidarity do a disservice to the people involved who have lost their lives for a quite specific reason. To dilute that message dishonors the victims. And it takes away the need to track down the particular sources of that hate.

Ruth Krall employs the category of "bystander apathy" from Stanley Cohen's States of Denial to argue that the bystander is part of a deadly triangle comprised of perpetrator(s), victim(s), and bystander(s) when events such as the Orlando atrocity take place: she notes,

Christian hate groups have good bystander approval ratings for many Americans (including Mennonites) because hate speech and exclusionary policies are actively promoted or tacitly supported by denominational purity codes and policies of exclusion. They are actively or tacitly supported by many individuals in the pews on Sunday mornings. They are actively or tacitly promoted by many ministers and priests in the pulpit during worship events. Most certainly, they are very actively promulgated by denominational policies and practices that exclude people from congregations, denominations, and worship experiences of all kinds such as the Eucharist, church-approved weddings, funerals, and adoption-confirmation practices.

Ruth cites a number of sources in this analysis that are very well worth reading.

John Pavlovitz tells straight Christians that if they really give a damn about LGBTQ people, they'd do well not to let the insights available to them after Orlando vanish when the media predictably move on in a few days to the next cause du jour:

But my great fear is that in a few days, we'll do to the victims of homophobia and transphobia what we've done to the victims of sexual assault this week: we'll simply replace them. We'll take this great passion over the lives of queer men and women; all the words of support and all the grief and all the outrage and all the promises to stay for the long haul—and we'll easily transfer them to something else. We'll get new Facebook profile filters and share new memes and for a few days we'll feel good about ourselves for feeling bad—and that will be it. 
The media certainly will move on.  

And then he offers a list of valuable suggestions for how straight Christian allies can avoid that moving on and re-erasing of queer people. It begins with this suggestion:

Read and share the work of LGBTQ Christian writers, pastors, activists, and thinkers.  Hear the stories of people who have lived this story before it ever hit your radar, and who will live it once it's no longer newsworthy to the news.

To do this effectively will require, of course, that churches including the Roman Catholic one begin at long last to set up safe spaces for queer people to tell our stories and share our lives with non-queer people. To be bluntly honest, I really do not see this happening. The rather predictable and dismal reaction — a predictable, dismal belligerent reaction — in "liberal" Catholic circles that refuse even to admit the necessity of talking about what happened recently in Orlando as a hate crime against queer people demonstrates to me all over again how very far many American Christians, including "liberal" ones, are from wanting to welcome and listen respectfully to LGBTQ people.

No comments: