“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Dr. Martin Luther King
The limestone rocks pushed out among the scrub brush and wind worn oaks that are strewn about the Hill Country in Texas and we drove on. The destination was Wimberley near San Marcos. We traveled to offer hope and some comfort to those who had endured a flood. Arriving I was taken to River Drive and looking up I saw a rock palisade more than 50 feet high. Atop those palisades were flooded homes … impressive and awesome such power and force of nature that swept down the Rio Blanco to sweep homes away. Some homes were summer homes, some vacation cabins, some full time residences. Some in spots are working folk with not much and others enjoy wealth and they all had something taken away. Their INDEPENDENCE was taken from them and they now rely on others: the government, mission groups, help groups, insurance companies, contractors and the list goes on. WE KNOW WHAT IT LIKE TO LOSE OUR INDEPENDENCE.
We had just gotten on the road to Texas a day after the shocking news was unfolding in Charleston. We are, after all, related to the nine victims of hatred. Our journey was harried and busy and distracting. Then the talking, comfort giving, hope brining, and what wisdom about disasters that could be given was given. We know what that is like. I was the outsider coming to “help.” They listened, and like us, told us their stories with a sort of rapid urgency. Some were angry, some sad, some confused, most simply tired. We know what that is like and so Charleston faded for a time. We ate together and worshiped together and promised we’d stay in touch and work together. The sky was overcast and Wimberley was in the rear view mirror by 2 p.m. on Sunday.
As we journeyed through the rice country of Louisiana I had a chance to check my smart phone and call up the news that had happened in New Orleans since leaving a few days before. More than four deaths unfolded in our home town; one a police officer. I began reflecting on the shootings going on nationally. Of marginal cases that may be justified in some way but really aren’t. Charleston came back to me quickly. Such loss of life is now sitting with me. Such loss of life may be sitting with you. We are, at the very least, disturbed – whatever that means. At the most we are grieving for one or more of the victims of violence. All of this drama unfolding on the weekend of PRIDE. Such a cosmic confluence should not go unnoticed or unappreciated.
Who can more understand hatred and violence than a gay man or woman? What group except perhaps Black- Americans can understand bigotry and loathing as much as LGBT community? Hatred is a burden and binding and with it you become a slave to your disdain for the other. Hatred and fear mongering rob humanity of Independence and freedom. Freedom can only and logically be had not in the catacombs of hatred but on the free peaks of love and liberty. Jesus preached a gospel of love and it was turned upside down for so long by so many. Even today our Governor perverts this message with ill conceived and poorly crafted edicts under the guise of Religious Freedom. He avoids the issue of Confederate flags and moves along. It seems that our country is becoming more polarized and more divided than ever.
What shall we do? Where shall our true independence find itself? A man filled with fear and loathing stood in a Bible study and killed men and women who would know this Gospel of Love. To start a race war he said. What perversion is this? What perversion is it that causes a young man to pull a gun on another young man for “street cred” and blow him away? What perversion causes a parent to abandon a baby to die? What perversion causes us to bear the terrible witness of five or six murders in our city on PRIDE weekend? So what do we do?
So far we do far too little. We are “holed up” in our homes, bars, restaurants, and “peaceful places.” Too few of us engage in this dramatic fight against hatred, bigotry, and violence. It seems that unless it happens to one of us, or in our neighborhood, or is dramatic or poignant we have little to say and less to do. If we are a community and if our community is part of a larger community we must do something. One of the key concepts that Jesus taught was community. Call it the “body of Christ” or perhaps “the great congregation.” In Africa there is a saying “Umbutu” and translated it means “I am because you are.” It evokes a sense that you exist and have your being precisely because you are connected to the larger organic body of humanity or “the body of Christ.” As a body we can move and have action we can work in solidarity and with profound force and power and that power is the power of good not evil. Yet, for some it is satisfactory to let haters co-opt the name of this faith and pervert it. Yet for some it is OK to ignore and pretend that hatred and perversion does not impact us. “We are OK it’s not in my neighborhood.” Or so the Pastor and his Bible study thought. Or so the Pizza delivery man thought in the Lower 9; or so Harvey Milk thought, or maybe even Dr. King, or maybe even Brian Jones, Jasilas Wright, Kimberly Gerdes, or Cinque Stallworth the latter names being locals who are victims of violence.
I am tired of this I am weary and I expect that some of you are too. Yet, we are a community that is informed, we are a community that loves, we are a community that hopes, we are a community that uses wit instead of hate speech, we are a community that can and must continue to respond to hate driven perversions wherever and whenever we encounter it. Please if you can or care to: do something, anything that will push up against institutional hatred, bigotry, racism, and sexism. Donate to a just cause, join a rally, write a letter, speak up, speak out, and keep the flames of the kind of liberty that our Lord spoke of and our founding Fathers dreamt of alive and active. We are a good people blessed and sent into the world to be not singularities but unifying beings that will love because hating is simply too much of a burden. Be the community within a community that sets the standard for surrounding communities: “Love thy neighbor as thy self.” That call is active not passive.