When Silence is Violence
Anyone who claims to be in the light, while hating their brother, is in darkness even now. 1 John 2.9
On the evening of June 12th, thousands of people marched from the heart of the Grove in St. Louis city to the Transgender Memorial Garden to honor the people who were killed in Orlando earlier that day. It was an opportunity to mourn with those who mourn, to show solidarity by our presence, and to express our sympathy by being silent. Not leading - and not wanting to - has always been an opportunity to show up by shutting up. Because we are learning in this movement that silence in the presence of people impacted by vicious violence can be an expression of humility and love.
We are also learning that there is a different type of silence, one that is driven by fear and breeds the violence we condemn.
Did evangelicals hesitate to mourn the loss of life and health when terrorists struck a marathon in Boston? Did we feel the need to offer theological caveats before mourning the victims at an AME church? Then why do we hesitate to acknowledge that the attack at Pulse in Orlando was fueled by bigotry? Why make note of the things we disagree with before we allow ourselves to lament?
Our Queer families see us when we are absent. They hear us when we are silent.
Perhaps we evangelicals are silent - some refusal to acknowledge the whole identities of LGBTQ+ people - because we are bigoted terrorists too. Our propaganda: circulating a petition to boycott Target. Our victims: image-bearers whose souls conditions are neither revealed to or controlled by us. We live as if faith gives us the right to direct people’s bodies. This is not faith-filled living. It is oppression. And much like the realization breaking upon us in the current political climate: this is not evangelicalism. At all.
Evangelicals are a diverse group, thankfully some of our circles include the LGBTQ+ family. Many of us are showing up in solidarity with queer communities around the world, grateful for the invitation to grieve together. But many others in our evangelical family walk a dangerous path of passing judgment before showing compassion. If we readily proclaim that LGBTQ+ people are sacred image-bearers, we must also confess and dismantle our participation in the long history of hatred that has them scared. It is easy to express sympathy for our fellow humans. But we are called to a greater task: to confess that the lives of our gay, lesbian, queer, and trans friends are sacred. We must be willing to say that the lives of queer people of color matter to God.
Silence in solidarity comes from a willingness to hear. But the silence of violence - intentional or not - is based in fear.
The Bible tells us that perfect love drives out fear. Perhaps it is less the responsibility of those at risk to summon up a fearlessness from inside their own fearful hearts, and more the responsibility of Christians, to follow love as it disrupts and reforms us, to drive out the reasons why LGBTQ+ people are justifiably afraid.
Christians and all people of faith need to examine how our theology and beliefs have contributed to the long history of violence against gay people.
Faith for Justice is committed to biblical activism. Sometimes activism means silence, sometimes it means speaking out. Last Sunday night we were there to be silent, to mourn the many whose bodies were wounded and lives were lost. Now we must mourn our own ignorance, our preference to call ourselves allies before we are willing to behave like we are. When people of faith feel ambivalent because victims of massacre were Queer (or perhaps because many were Latino and people of color) then we need to repent, and we need to change. Together with all who are willing, we do so now.
We confess our failure to center the impacted Latinx and LGBTQ+ communities and queer POC. We confess that the lives of our gay, lesbian, queer, and trans friends are sacred. We proclaim that the lives of LGBTQ+ people of color matter to God. We acknowledge and lament our participation in the long history of hatred and Christian privilege. We commit to disrupt and dismantle Christian privilege and all it’s trappings evident in evangelical lifestyles: systemic hatred; disregard based on race, gender or orientation; bigotry and misogyny.
Queer Lives Matter Latinx Lives Matter Black Lives Matter
Say their names:
Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old
Amanda Alvear, 25 years old
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old
Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old
Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
Cory James Connell, 21 years old
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old
Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
Frank Hernandez, 27 years old
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old
Kimberly Morris, 37 years old
Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 yrs old
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old
Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old
Faith for Justice organizing team (Michelle Higgins (Director), Craig Scandrett-Leatherman, Amy Pedersen, Alisha Beseth)
Rev. Dr. Mike Higgins, Pastor of South City Church in St. Louis, MO