Week Two: Violence & Resurrection
“More people have been slaughtered in the name of religion than for any other single reason. That, my friends, that is true perversion.” -Harvey Milk
Harvey Milk lived during a tumultuous time in San Francisco and became the first openly gay elected official in California (1978). He would ultimately be assassinated, but even during his life he experienced significant violence, hate crimes, discrimination, and hostility around him. Much violence toward the LGBTQ community has unfortunately come from misguided religious sources. Religious sources also have the capacity to bring about extraordinary healing and renewal.
Religion and faith are neither inherently “good” nor “bad”. Religion and faith are powers to be used responsibly. As a pastor I am not opposed to religion. I am a student of Christianity and our neighbors of many faiths. As a pastor it is my duty, privilege, and calling to actively resist violence, especially violence done in the name of religion. To be “slaughtered” or harmed is to be a victim or survivor of violence.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines violence as, “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, development, or deprivation."
As a Mennonite I take a broad definition of violence to include all of these areas described by WHO. Too many members of our LGBTQ+ community have experienced violence physically, religiously at church, from hostile family situations, and more. Whether mass violence such as Pulse in Orlando or systemic violence such as discrimination, or more individualized violence such as painfully strained relationships, violence hurts us all.
As a cisgender white person I know what it is like to unintentionally “slaughter” or harm another person because of my ignorance connected to being a gender majority and historically racially privileged person. As a gay woman I also know what it is like to be “slaughtered” by harmful theology, abusive hermeneutics, and misguided Christians.
Whether I am on the giving or receiving end of violence, the results are similar—injury and harm. Jesus teaches in John 15:
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit… ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you… You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.” (v. 5a,12,16; NRSV)
May we in the LGBTQ+ community live as loving fruit connected to the source of Love, praying with our hands and feet so that all people will experience resurrection after violence.
Whether individually or communally, take time this Pride Month to remember your resurrection story- name hurts in your life and also name renewed life. Pride Month is an opportunity to name perversions of the Gospel of love and to recognize violence, both perpetrated and survived. Pride is a celebration of survival and a time of grieving those who suffer at the hands of violence in any way.
May each rainbow this month remind you of God’s promise to Noah (Genesis 9)—a symbol of peace and relationship. When God sees a rainbow, God “will remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” (v.16) “All flesh” includes me, you, and all of God’s children. Shalom, complete peace, for all.
- What are symbols of peace for you? What visually reminds you of peaceful experiences?
- What is your resurrection story? How have you survived and overcome obstacles, especially related to gender identity and sexual orientation? In what ways are you still in need of resurrection?
- How can you help support others in need of shalom, complete peace, this Pride Month?
Rev. Erica Lea-Simka is a graduate of San Jacinto College, Texas A&M, and Truett Theological Seminary. She has served Baptist and Mennonite congregations in Wyoming, Texas, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C. Erica began serving as Pastor of Albuquerque Mennonite Church in November 2017 when she became the first out lead pastor to be called by a congregation in Mennonite Church USA. When not at church or serving the community, she enjoys cooking, walking, British mysteries, traveling, and time with her sweetheart. Connect with Erica online on Twitter: @RevEricaLea; or her website: revericalea.org.