Leaning Towards Love: A Reflection on Orlando
SCM member Ellie Wilde reflects on the recent shootings in Orlando from an LGBT Christian perspective.
My first thought when I heard the news of Orlando was: We are not free. We are not safe. No-one can tell me that homophobia doesn’t exist, and that it’s not absolutely deadly.
Homophobia exists in every country, in every major religion and in almost every culture. However, now that we can get married in several ‘developed’ countries, some people may assume that the fight for equality is over. I have been guilty of feeling this false sense of security. I thought I was safe, and so did the victims in Orlando.
What makes this tragedy so difficult to deal with, for me, is that those 49 people were in my community, and it is abundantly clear that this was a homophobic attack. I go to gay clubs to feel safe too. Most of the victims were queer, like me, but they were also different from me. It’s important to remember that they were mostly Hispanic or Black. To deny any part of their precious identities is to dishonour the dead. They experienced several different kinds of prejudice, all at the same time.
I am queer and religious. I know what it’s like to experience different kinds of prejudice at once, although I am relatively privileged as a white, cisgender person. I have laboured under the double weight of being gay and Christian, but I have also rejoiced in both of these identities and the way they weave together.
LGBTQ+ people have been belittled, rejected and invalidated by the Church far too often. All people of good faith should now wake up to the reality of where this kind of treatment, these kind of attitudes, can lead. It is homophobia when we are denied equal rights to love, worship and fully participate in our churches.
I have always believed that Christianity has love at its core, above all else. That love was demonstrated by a man who died for his friends. And as a Quaker, I believe in the light within everyone – the divine part of ourselves which leans towards love.
There are plenty of people who deny their light, and who choose to stamp out the lights of others. That’s what the shooter did in Orlando. He lost sight, so completely, of what it means to be a divine creation. He let the darkness win. I believe that this is what we mean when we talk about evil. The part of ourselves which hates, which divides, which finds an ‘other’ to pit itself against.
This ‘othering’ is breaking through in our media, in everyday conversations, and in political speeches. The darkness in us says that Islam is to blame and that refugees are dangerous. It is very clear to me that this must not be allowed to win. There will be plenty of queer Muslims who are experiencing a double tragedy, and it’s absolutely vital for us to support and reach out to them.
Advices & Queries 32 says: ‘Bring into God’s light those emotions, attitudes and prejudices in yourself which lie at the root of destructive conflict, acknowledging your need for forgiveness and grace. In what ways are you involved in the work of reconciliation between individuals, groups and nations?’
We must look for the light in ourselves and in everyone else, no matter how different they seem to be. We all have both good and evil in us, and we must hope and work for the light to overcome. Let these events be a challenge to us all, to foster relationship and unity in times of division and hatred. Let us honour the dead by living in the light.
Ellie is an SCM member, a graduate in English Literature from the Open University, and a web content writer. She is married to SCM Faith in Action Project Worker Ruth Wilde.
If you are planning to hold a service or vigil for Orlando, you can download and use this liturgy written by SCM member Debbie White.