Reflections on the Pulse Shooting Anniversary

A year ago today the Latino and LGBTQ communities were rocked by the massacre that took place at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando. This outrageous, unjust event seemed to mark a transition of seasons. In the wake of a wave of legal and cultural victories we suddenly found ourselves in the darkness again.
When the shooter plotted, pursued, and murdered our LGBTQ siblings he left us feeling like being LGBTQ meant a lesser existence. When the narratives that followed left out the fact that most victims were people of color, those communities were left feeling invisible. Even now, with events like the persecution of gay men in Chechnya, and the political scapegoating of trans people and rising xenophobia we’ve seen in our own country, we find ourselves in grave despair—facing discrimination, hatred, and abuse.
The God we worship does not want any of this to happen. God is love, and the victims of the Pulse shooting were God’s own creation, covered by God’s grace. God wants us to live full lives of freedom in response to God’s goodness and calling. As a theologian, my only explanation for how or why these events keep happening is only that evil exists. This, of course, is no comfort to any compassionate or otherwise rational person. But evil exists, and our response to it is to resist.
In the face of such horror and the continued presence of fear, I offer a small grain of wisdom from scripture. In the Book of Romans, the Apostle Paul gives us two important ideas that, when paired, shine a light in our present darkness. In Romans 8:18-19 Paul reminds us that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.” In Romans 12:15 Paul calls us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” What do these two ideas say to you?
To me this means that whether we are gay, straight, transgender, cisgender, bi, or non-binary, we humans still have much for which to hope. And as we wade through the darkness of despair, our duty as Christians is to rejoice where there is righteous rejoicing and sorrow with those who sorrow. I know many still find themselves in sorrow from the Pulse shooting and all that it represented for our country. Who will you be for them?
Our task to be a presence in the lives of those who need comfort is unending. It is a calling that requires our complete inclusion of all people, whether stranger or friend. That is what we strive for at GCN. We want to be a haven where all can feel God’s inclusive presence, where we can all love people with both our rejoicing and our sorrow. During this Pride Month, I hope that you will take some time to reflect on the variety of people in your life—family, neighbors, or friends who could benefit from the hope of your presence in their lives.
Go in peace!

Ben Mann
Board Member