Friends in Christ, Thanksgiving is Thursday and Advent starts next Sunday.
My heart is anguished after the murders at Club Q in Colorado Springs last weekend. In “barely a minute,” five people died, 17 others were shot, and two others were injured. The 22-year-old shooter, carrying an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle, stalked his prey in a place people came for sanctuary from anti-LGBTQIA+ hatred. They were unarmed in an enclosed space, like sitting ducks or fish in a barrel.
No one has the right to hunt and kill innocent people. No civilian should have the right to carry an assault weapon designed for war.
If you are a person who identifies as LGBTQIA+, I see you, I love you, I need you to survive. You should not be targeted for ridicule, bullying, or bodily harm by people who don’t understand you or hate you. I believe that Jesus calls every Christian to be a trustworthy ally as you seek to live the fullness of life God sets before you, but many are slow to respond to this call.
If you are a person who hates or fears LGBTQIA+ people, I’m sorry for you; you don’t have to remain where you are today. Each of us is held to account for our fear, our hatred, and our inaction. In the gospels, we have a front-row seat as Jesus meets all kinds of misunderstood and marginalized people – leper, blind, possessed, lame, tax collectors, women caught in adultery or with a flow of blood, robbers. He seeks them out, speaks with them, and invites them into his circle of friends. He saved his disdain for high priests and pious people he thought should know better – like us.
If you follow Jesus, he will introduce you to LGBTQIA+ people, and you will be given the opportunity to grow in your knowledge and love of Jesus by seeing what Jesus sees in them. We must love our way out of hate, or we will find ourselves on the side of Herod, slaughtering innocents in the pursuit of his rival, Jesus, instead of on the side of humble shepherds, tending their flocks and welcoming his arrival.
Regardless of political party, it is time for Christian people, striving to walk in the way of Jesus, to join with others of generous spirit, to rise up to stop the sale of assault weapons. Courageous citizens have the power to protect innocent victims from people who lack the intellectual, moral, emotional, or spiritual ability to resist an impulse to wholesale slaughter. It is blasphemous to pray for God to do what we have the power but not yet the will to do. We are our brother’s/sister’s/sibling’s keeper. We can act, and so we must, to save countless lives.
This Thanksgiving, I hope you will enjoy good food in the company of people you love, whether family, friends, or strangers. I hope you will pray for those on both ends of gun violence. And as we prepare for the birth of Jesus, learn more and work to ban private ownership of weapons designed for war. I urge you to see how our General Board of Church and Society is helping us get involved in resisting gun violence. I hope you will also consider writing a letter to your elected representatives, as Olympia First UMC encouraged us at our annual conference session in June. We can make it safer for innocent, vulnerable people to gather without fear for work, a concert, a drag show, a movie, a nightclub, school, church, for love.
Love is born at Christmas!
Elaine JW Stanovsky
Bishop, Greater Northwest Episcopal Area