This past weekend we experienced another act of hatred in the form of a shooting at a gay night club in Orlando. A year ago, on June 17, 2015, we learned that a shooting in a South Carolina church killed nine people. In December of 2015, Zaevion Dobson, a 15-year Knoxville student was killed in gang related gun-fire while protecting three others. The Sandy Hook shootings happened in December of 2012. Virginia Tech's shooting happened in April of 2007. Unfortunately, I could go on for quite some time with a list of violent acts against people of all races, religions, genders, sexual preferences, age, class and ethnicities.
Over the past two days, Ihave had a chance to speak with MCC colleagues, MCC Knoxville congregants, non-MCC colleagues, close friends, and family. Some are scared, some are angry, some are hurt, some are confused, some are sad, some are dismayed, some are overwhelmed and some are just "over it." I get those emotions. Those and many more that I haven't mentioned make a lot of sense in the wake of the Orlando shooting. And quite frankly, I'm one of those feeling overwhelmed and lost in face of another act of hatred simply because I do not understand. And on top of not understanding, I don't always know what to do that will make a difference. Perhaps that is why the Nelson Mandela quote speaks to me in such times as this: "...people must learn to hate."
We all have people who will learn from us whether we know it or not - whether we intentionally indoctrinate another with our understanding of right and wrong and morals or whether our actions educate those watching us "what to do" in life.
The question becomes what will you and I do in light of such an act of hate.
Yesterday, Sunday, there was an interfaith service that gave voice and light to such a dark situation and in the evening a prayer vigil was held. This event will be in the news for the upcoming weeks, but this too will slowly dissipate from the forefront of our minds as we are told of other harrowing stories via social media and 24-7 worldwide news.
But my question still remains, will our actions, our lives, our intentions change because of this?
We feel grief and frustration. We are confused at how our gun laws can continue to allow people to have semi-automatic and fully-automatic weapons so easily. We are hurt at an attack against a community we belong to. We are scared that others will attempt to do the same to you and I if they know we identify with or as part of the LGBTQQI community. We are uncertain if being at Pride will make us a target.
Despite the vast array of emotions we are experiencing and the "what-if's" in our minds - will we continue to dwell in our feelings and fears or will we do something to teach love rather than hate.
Mandela's quote reminds us that we are taught hatred. However, if we can be taught to hate, we can be taught and re-taught and taught again to love. Our world gives us more than enough news to create a reason to hate. And yet, you and I are called to bear Christ's Love in this world. We are called to be a vessel that shows an alternate and prophetic vision to this world. We are called to be teachers of love.
This weekend is Pride in Knoxville. It will be another chance for you and I to stand up and say we will not act out of fear or hate. We will parade our way downtown to remind people that there is a safe place to learn of God's love for humanity. Old, young, gay, straight, transgender, woman, man, bisexual, pansexual, rich, poor, black, white, Latino - we will all be in unity on this day standing up together as a community.
We will be down there not because we have all the answers. We will not stand as a church that has perfected this journey. Instead, we will be together as a voice to the voiceless, as living testimonies to true Love, and as fellow sojourners trying to figure it all out.
In it all, through Pride and for the rest of our lives, may we continue to be honest with ourselves and truly work to be teachers of love in all we do and say rather than teachers of hate.