June 12th I woke up to one of the saddest days in America - a hate crime, committed against my brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community by a deranged gunman using an assault rifle. I spent the day in deep sadness for the families most directly impacted. I felt sick all day.
The unthinkable is no longer the unthinkable. It is being played out on a far too regular basis - the slaughter of innocent people by those who feast on fear and who believe they are entitled to the use of violence. We are getting a taste of what many places in the world know on a daily basis.
The Church must speak out against hate at every level. Hate is always anchored in fear. Fear allows us to dehumanize the other person. Hate launches a vicious circle of retaliation which insists on escalating into greater and greater expressions of violence. Hate always divides and destroys. Hate is the heart beat of terrorism. It is never anchored in the truth of religion.
Already we are seeing great expressions of love and solidarity. Love brings people together. Love values all people. Love strengthens the whole community.
The outreach of love to the families most directly impacted has been overwhelming. Expressions of solidarity for the LGBTQ community are coming in from around the world. Words of care for the parents who cannot imagine how the son they loved could commit such a horrific act.
Love begins when we extend ourselves to the stranger. Love begins when we come to know the people we fear as fellow children of God. Love begins when we say no to the fear and seeds of hate that begin to creep into all of our lives.
I began with the words of Paul because in times like this words are utterly inadequate. So I pray my daily prayer. Come Holy Spirit. Come Holy Spirit and disturb your church. Come Holy Spirit and drive your church into the heart of the suffering of our world. Come Holy Spirit and allow your church to surprise the world with grace not hate. Come Holy Spirit and help us to be your people who comfort our neighbors most deeply wounded by the violence of June 12th.
Grace, grace, grace.
Kirby Unti, Bishop
Northwest Washington Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America