Monthly Archives: June 2016

“Looks like there is no safe place anywhere.”


I’ve heard that a number of times this week, as we all process the terrible mass shooting in Orlando last weekend.

This event causes pain to a number of communities, but no one moreso than the LGBTQ folks everywhere, but especially in Orlando.  The club for them wasn’t just a venue for drinking and dancing; it was a zone of safety, where everyone expected them to be just as they were, and they did not have to hide any portion of themselves to fit in.

This was even more especially true for LGBTQ folks of color, especially for “Latinx” – Latinos, Latinas, and those of Hispanic heritage who don’t identify with –o or –a, for whom that evening’s theme made it a really perfect safe place.  They thought.

“Pulse” was added to the list as one more among so many places of public accommodation that have been now demonstrated as not safe from a shooting, including movie theatres, the workplace, school, the mall, and even churches and synagogues.

For gay folks where home isn’t especially safe, some of these “third places” have been a source of life – but now …”there is no safe place anywhere.”

There is more than enough blame to go around as social media discussions have made clear:  there are lax gun laws, hateful religious speech, mental illness (and failure to provide care), the FBI letting the guy go, and ISIS and all other “radical jihadists,” not to mention one commentator blaming the victims for not fighting back!

But if I withdraw from the debate for a moment I remember what I have learned.  Along with whatever blame I or my group may share for what we did or didn’t do that contributed to such hatred and such violence, I must remember how the situation on earth looks to God.

It’s not popular to say so, but Jesus certainly demonstrated that there is a personal source of evil, that this evil being opposes God and everything God loves, and loves it best when we will do his bidding without even crediting him.

The Bible tells us our real enemies are not flesh and blood, but spiritual – the “principalities and powers” as the Apostle Paul put it, in a spiritual realm beyond our senses.  Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit came among us he would prove the world wrong about judgment, because in Christ’s death and resurrection it was not people who were condemned, but “the prince of this world.”

Yes, Satan loves our willingness to hate people who are different from us, and he loves it even more if we will couch that hate in religious language.  This event was a two-fer for Evil:  some blame the gays while others blame the Muslims!  He loves the paralysis of our leaders who can’t give up the money that comes from the gun lobby even while people who clearly beat up their family members can get a gun, along with people who are on the no-fly list because they might be terrorists!  Satan loves how we like to play at being death-dealers, with video games and movies and shooting ranges all decked up to show us as bad-asses, even dressing up the target to look like the sitting President of the United States, because the gun folks don’t like him.  Satan laughs when we spend our money to stock up on MORE guns because any day now the jackbooted thugs are coming for our guns.  Seven and a half years and they still haven’t shown up – better buy another one.

Satan also enjoys it when nominal “Christians” get angry when we remind them that Jesus told us to turn the other cheek when our enemy slaps us one time, to get slapped again, or to give up our shirt when a thief takes our coat.  When we tell them Jesus said to pray for those who persecute us and to love our enemies, they laugh at us and declare that surely God loves someone who knows how to kill in self-defense.  And then they declare as “Christians” their hatred for Muslims, being very sure that God wants them to defeat the Muslims in order to defend the minority Christians in their lands.

Are we so sure that’s God talking?  Because Jesus predicted Christians would be hated for loving him, and never gave them a word about self-defense – instead, they as we are promised an eternal home and that one day Jesus would make all things new.  This world is our place of witness, and there is no safe place.

No, there is no safe place here.  We are however already safe in the hand of God.  We have “already died” in Christ and we have “already” been seated in the heavenlies with him, too – our place there is reserved.  In this world we are merely ambassadors, sent with a message of reconciliation to everyone else from God.  We demonstrate this reconciliation from God by refusing to be anyone’s enemy, since after all our enemies are not flesh and blood!

Therefore it may not be welcome in public spaces right now, but we can even have compassion on the shooter, no matter what confluence of evil suggestions filled him up to the point of carrying out his nefarious deed.  We are not his judges; God is.  But we also know that God visited all sin on his Son on the cross, even this one.  We are not too sure that God’s justice even on him may be grace.

And may there yet be grace on all who in God’s name have visited hatred on gays, and on Muslims…hatred and “walls” just makes for militants.  If God is love, why did we think it was up to us to decide who is not invited?   It pleases the devil when we thrust a hand in someone’s face rather than hold out a hand in introduction.

No, there is no safe place here.

We weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn.  And sigh because knowing that it is Evil personified at work, doesn’t make it any better.   Knowing that the devil is defeated is nice but with all humanity we cry out, come Lord Jesus, come – come and make all things new.  Come and make a safe place in a new heavens and a new earth.  We have made such a mess of this one.


Brock Turner and the “Journey of Ascent”

Father Richard Rohr does workshops* for men and women using a helpful theory about the spiritual formation journey for each gender.
Traditionally, he says, at puberty the genders’ journeys begin to differ – in fact, they go in opposite directions.
Young men begin to learn their power – they begin the “journey of ascent.” For the next decade or two their bodies will teach them they are strong and vigorous and with this power, they can dominate or protect. They can rule. They can produce. In a conflict, they can win. Later, as their physical strength and virility fades, men begin the “journey of descent,” which can lead to humility and wisdom, but will not automatically lead there.
Young women, however, begin to learn something different from their bodies at puberty – they begin to learn that their bodies at least in some ways are for the service of others. They begin, at puberty, their “journey of descent.” Traditionally, in young adulthood, women married and began to give birth and care for children. In those situations, women naturally learned to delay gratification of their own desires, to submit their strength to the needs of others, etc. For them, the “journey of ascent” begins later in life when the children are raised! Women and men often cross paths at this time of life, when women can begin to pursue more of their own interests and use their strength outside of strictly the needs of their families.
These paradigms are of course shifting in our current setting, but there is something to be learned in observing these patterns. Father Rohr points out that in most cultures (but not ours), young men at puberty were taken by the men of their culture into some kind of challenge, which was meant to demonstrate that their strength and virility was not just meant for themselves, but for the good of the community.
I was thinking about all this in relation to the story of Brock Turner, the “Stanford rape case,” and the social outrage over his lenient sentence.
I understand his (and his father’s) bewilderment over everyone else’s insistence that Brock is a rapist who deserves more jail time, when to them it seems like he’s a good kid who made a mistake. Of course I don’t know them, but I’ve known people who they remind me of – privileged, powerful, with all the schooling and coaching and experiences that a well-rounded 1%-er will need to dominate society.
He was only doing what he’d been brought up to do, only doing what everyone else does. The problem, it may be, was that he never had that experience of learning that his strength, virility, power, prestige and privilege were not just for himself.
He never learned the elements of the journey of descent…only ascent. And so people have been pointing out that he thought everything he wanted…even a woman…was his to take, and the idea that someone like him might be called to account for it is…confounding. After all, he didn’t really rape her. He knows where the boundaries are – the boundaries that suit him. But he doesn’t know that the way he sees the world is not acceptable.
I hear a lot about more “complementarian” forms of Christian doctrine and how they set people and churches up for this same kind of thing. These are the folks who infer from the few things said about gender in the Bible that God says all men rule over all women, that all men are given the task of protecting and guiding all women, and all women were made to serve men.
To them, this kind of thing can be avoided when women stay home, marry young and are protected by their fathers and then their husbands. And that certainly is one way to solve the rape problem…unless the men involved, with their worldviews so skewed about their place in the world, instead learn that they are dominant, powerful, privileged, and can take what they want from women. Then, even marriage won’t save that woman.
Instead, I see Jesus, who looks at men and women far differently than any of these paradigms have taught us to see each other. To him, each were individuals. Each needed a “journey of descent” into humility before God. Each needed to see with God’s eyes that we are both wonderful and a mess, made in the image of God and yet torn up and driven by fear and desire and sin.
Each needs to trust Jesus for forgiveness and real power…and then a much better “journey of ascent” begins, one hand-in-hand with the living Christ who never used his power for himself at the expense of others, who never took what he wanted but gave what others needed…who never would have seen an unconscious woman as an opportunity for sex. Neither does he think just women are here to learn humility and service!
As a culture we need to stop asking kids who’ve been taught to sharpen their individual strengths all their lives for their own benefit to suddenly understand others with an empathy they never learned. As a culture, it sounds to me like we need to teach young men and women that their power and strength and intelligence and even their virility are not toys for themselves but tools for not just them but their village. They will not always be strong. Everyone is going to need some help. And we are responsible for more than just ourselves.
That’s not the only answer to the Brock Turner sentencing outrage – no, not at all. We need to ask ourselves why we put young people of color away for many times more of sentence, for much less of a crime. Much has been uncovered in this situation.
But I’m reminded that rape has been and is still often used as a tool subjugation and cruelty over whole populations. Dominance is an ugly desire, unless it is tempered with love and empathy and responsibility. If we’re not teaching that to our kids, we are growing up monsters without knowing it.