Everybody is talking about Orlando this week, as we should be. After we express our concern for the victims and their loved ones…after we pray and keep vigil… I notice we all start to make claims.
-was it a gay event, and we need to beware of homophobia?
-was it because of guns, and how easy it is for Americans to obtain them?
-was it a Latino event, and we need to be less racist?
-was it a Muslim event?
-was it simply untreated mental illness?
-no, it was a domestic violence thing…
Doug and I were talking about all this, and what strikes us is that the folk making claims using these various lenses tend to use their claim to give themselves power.
How different that is, from the way of Jesus, who related to everyone uniquely how they were. Paul said let’s be like Jesus,
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.” (from Philippians 2, NRSV)
So first of all, Jesus practiced and invites us into a downward movement… becoming humble, considering others better than we are. I can’t think of a more effective position to take, in cultivating relationships with people who differ from us – listening, serving, learning.
But secondly, to go back to Orlando, it’s not that one claim is true, and another isn’t. It’s that they’re all factors. The tragedy in Orlando rose out of a complex intersection of all of those things.
Our lives are also like that. I’m white and straight, but I can use my experiences as a woman to empathize with what might be happening for people of color and LGBTQ people. I can use my racial power in listening, serving, learning: “emptying myself” like Jesus. As a pastor, usually when I walk into church, I have more power than others in the room. I can use that power to give others voice. Being alert to the intersections of my life, helps me become a more faithful person and leader.
Earlier this week (in part in response to Orlando, but other events in my city), I organized and moderated an interfaith (and interracial) teach in. Two Rabbis, a Pastor (Black), an Imam (African)… and me. Here we are answering folks questions.
Left to right, Rabbi Bonnie Margulis (speaking), Pastor Stephen Marsh, Imam Sheikh Alhadjie Jallow, Rabbi Jonathan Biatch, and myself.
What fascinated me was that each one of us spoke in different ways about the fact that our three great religions (Judaism, Islam and Christianity) all taught us that God created our diversity, to humble us, to help us struggle, and ultimately, to heal us. You doubt this? Think about the passages in scripture about reconciliation, about church unity, about learning to love your brother or sister.
So I invite you, as you read and think about Orlando, and other situations, to become more alert to the intersections, and the complexity of our identities. What if God created all this diversity, to bless us? And consider your own complex identity… where do you have power? Where are you disempowered (and vulnerable)? Jesus, I imagine, intends to lead you in both places to bless others.