orlando-browderThis past Sunday, the worst terrorist attack since September 11, 2001 happened in Orlando, Florida. An Islamist pledging allegiance to ISIS entered a gay nightclub and opened fire, killing 49 people and injuring many more. It was a heartbreaking scene. The gay and lesbian subculture is not just an idea “over there”- just like we are not an idea “over here”. It is made up of people: people with life histories and experiences. Just like you. They have parents, brothers, and sisters. Some of them have been rejected by their families. Some are supported by them. They have friends and lovers and all the familiar highs and lows that go with that. You could see the relationships in the released text messages from that night. They were heart-wrenching. In them, we can see ourselves and our shared humanity.

critical-orlando-shootingThis unspeakable act of brutality, as you know, primarily affected the gay and lesbian community of Orlando. This means the gay and lesbian community of Houston–of Meyerland and its surrounding neighborhoods–is in grief and, probably, deeply afraid. These are our neighbors whom we are called to love and with whom we mourn; whatever theological differences we may have have no bearing on this whatsoever. How can we do this, beloved? Where is the Holy Spirit moving this parish to love our neighbor–not just in this tragedy, but the recent floods and in all the unknown events to come? We cannot shirk this; it would be picking and choosing from the Scripture we confess as authoritative to do so, rendering all the traditional worship and formation we enjoy to be an empty cultural data point.

While details about this atrocity are still coming in, the predictable divides that beleaguer our country manifested almost instantaneously through social media. On the left, guns are the issue. On the right, immigration is the issue. In this, Americans continue going after each other, belying who they consider to be the actual enemy. That which should be a time of collective grief and prayer has turned into a time of digging in to our blue or red trenches and resuming hostilities, dishonoring real people who have died. This is nothing new and we should all be used to it by now in the present political climate.

red-v-blueThe answer for us, I am convinced, is to think and act locally: in our parish and in our community of southwest Houston. Political acrimony turns people into ideas and attacks them. Christianity turns ideas into people and loves them. We all have neighbors. Unfortunately, we know so few of them: we busy ourselves so. Some of them are Jewish and some are gay and lesbian. Some of them are conservative Republicans and others are liberal Democrats. There are native Texans and expatriate Nigerians. There are angry people and meek ones. African-Americans and Asians. Many are Muslim families and are afraid in their own right. They, too, have children who look to them for protection and sustenance. This is our community now. Loving only those who look, act, and think like us is to make God in our own image. Doing that would be giving in to the culture of blue and red trenches and its election year manipulations.

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. (Luke 10: 30-34 ESV)

goodsamaritanJesus Christ is the Good Samaritan who saw us stripped, beaten, and left for dead. He did not see us as an idea as the priest and Levite did. He saw us as individual human beings with stories, hopes, and fears. He poured out Himself and bound up our wounds, even when we were strangers, He loved us as neighbors (Rom. 5:8)–even as brothers and sisters. This is the crux of our Faith: it is the center from which everything emanates. A wise person once said, “Ask where the Holy Spirit is working and join Him.” I would like for us to find out the answer to that question in our own community, beginning with our neighbors who are hurting, grieving, and afraid right now.

— David Browder, June 15, 2016