The following are some remarks I made around the peace pole in front of Our Savior’s Lutheran, South Hadley, MA, at our vigil in honor of the victims of the Orlando shooting on June 12, 2016.
I love to be in places of joy and authenticity and community.
Places where you can be yourself, whoever you are, and you can laugh and sing and dance and bond with people just like you. Where you don’t have to feel weird. Where it doesn’t matter what happens to you – you have your community around you. Where you can bond over food and drink and love of one another. And together you can be strong, and joyful, and full of love.
It’s why I love the story where Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding — he kept the joy going. It’s also why I love church.
And it’s why I love bars like Pulse, where it doesn’t matter who you are, you can come in and have a good time.
For some of you who may have never been to such an establishment, you may have heard things about drug use or promiscuity. Those things are sometimes true. They are sometimes true of all clubs.
But what is also true is that they are places of joy and bonding and being carefree and safe, for once, especially when you feel abnormal to the rest of the world.
Because let’s be clear: had this happened on another night, in another city, I could be listening to my friends’ names. Or I could be absent from this gathering entirely.
People always find excuses to hate those on the margins: the victims of this act of violence were largely people of color in addition to most — but not all — of them being LGBT. And not even a year ago, nine precious children of God were slain in their own church — a black church, Mother Emanuel in South Carolina, another place of joy and escape from a world that may otherwise hate those who attend.
So what do we do? Now and in the coming days, people are and will suggest solutions. Some of those you will agree with, while others may make your blood boil. Other people will suggest roots of the problem. Some will blame Islam, others religion as a whole, still others will blame guns, and still others will blame homophobia.
I’m not here to find causes or solutions. The one cause I know of — the demon that infests the heart of every murderer, no matter what name it calls itself — is hatred. It’s not seeing another person as a human being, but as a demographic that it’s okay to hate: gay. Black. Latinx. Immigrant. American. Muslim. Christian.
The one problem that we can all agree on is hatred and dehumanization.
And that is something that oppressed communities know something about dealing with. It’s the reason that gay clubs and black churches become sanctuaries, places of joy and community where it may not be safe out there, but it’s safe in here.
May we seek to be that kind of community to one another.
When he accepted his Tony award for his show Hamilton, the one I talk about all the time, Lin-Manuel Miranda spoke these prophetic words, naming characters from their musical about the American Revolution:
“We chase the melodies that seem to find us
Until they’re finished songs and start to play
When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
That nothing here is promised, not one day.
This show is proof that history remembers
We lived through times when hate and fear seemed stronger;
We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.
I sing Vanessa’s symphony, Eliza tells her story
Now fill the world with music, love and pride.”
We have a choice. The American Revolution and the early church both found their roots in the midst of being hated, pushed out, outside of what is considered normal, and bucking the status quo, even in the face of danger. That is where both American Revolution and the Church found its song.
So may we build the walls of our church strong with the love of Jesus, and may we continue to be a community filled with joy, authenticity, and community, striving to stay together no matter what hatred rages outside.
And may we remember:
That love is love, it cannot be killed or swept aside.
I sing Jesus’ symphony, Mary Magdalene tells her story.
Now fill the world with music, love, and pride. Amen.