Editor’s note: This article discusses gun violence and violence toward the LGBTQ community.
Two news stories caught my attention this weekend. First, I saw this thread on Twitter. The reporter was live tweeting about how a white supremacist group filled a truck full of men from across the country to “protest” at a Pride event in Idaho.
It’s an overly gracious assumption that they were there just to protest the event, and it’s more likely that they were there to commit some act of violence against our queer siblings who were there celebrating who God made them to be.
As another reporter continued tweeting about the event, they also showed a video of a group of protesters at the Pride event. While this group was separate from the white supremacist group, they were there for the same reason: to cause hurt and violence, whether physical, emotional, spiritual or psychological, on the queer community. As painful as this already is, this group also gathered together to sing a song as part of their protest. Of all songs, they were singing “How Great Thou Art.”
I started weeping. For this hate to be cast upon someone already is heartbreaking enough, but then to do that in the name of Christ? In the clip of the video, they happened to be singing the last verse of the hymn which states:
When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration
And then proclaim, my God, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art.
Such sacred words being used for such hatred and violence. Not exactly what I would describe as bowing in humble adoration and recognizing the greatness of our Lord.
The other news article that caught my attention was the same day as the event in Idaho but was at the March for Our Lives event in Washington, D.C. There was a crowd of about 50,000 making their voices heard about gun laws and begging for reform in hopes of protecting more lives being lost.
During a moment of silence, somebody started yelling and charged the stage. In an effort to detain the individual, a speaker got knocked over and created a loud popping noise. Immediately, the 50,000 in the crowd assumed that there was an active shooter and started running for their lives. Thankfully, one of the speakers on stage saw what actually happened and cleared up the confusion before anyone was seriously physically injured in the chaos. However, it did cause psychological and emotional distress because those in the crowd thought their lives were in danger.
“This incident is a prime example of the collective trauma our society has experienced.”
This incident is a prime example of the collective trauma our society has experienced. Due to the number of mass shootings that happen in our country and the wide array of the locations where they happen, our bodies are constantly ready to fight, flight or freeze. We look for the exits. We have a plan in our heads of how to survive if someone starts shooting into the crowd. This has become so normal that we don’t even realize our bodies are constantly in survival mode. And I say that as a cisgendered, middle class, white woman knowing that those in marginalized groups are even more so in survival mode throughout everyday life.
In both these situations — gun violence and violence against the queer community — it’s heartbreaking for the obvious reason of people being harmed and killed. However, it’s also heartbreaking because this seems too often be done in the name of God.
Queer people are being harmed and killed because of their identity and living into who God made them to be. The violence against them is justified as “correcting sin” in the world but in reality is spewing hatred and costing people their lives.
With gun violence, people are refusing to tighten the laws around gun access out of fear of having their “God-given right” taken away. People of all ages, from babies to senior adults, are dying because of a lack of compromise on guns — a tool created purposely to take the life of someone. Politicians are using Scripture and theology to justify the deaths of other politicians and community members.
Last week, Good Faith Media posted a meaningful article about taking the Lord’s name in vain, and I’ve thought about it often in the last few days. When reflecting on the events of this weekend, perhaps singing sacred hymns while casting a community of people to hell is taking the Lord’s name in vain.
“Perhaps singing sacred hymns while casting a community of people to hell is taking the Lord’s name in vain.”
Perhaps sending a truck full of individuals to an event with the sole purpose of harming them is taking the Lord’s name in vain.
Perhaps creating and normalizing a society where we are constantly afraid of dying in a mass shooting is taking the Lord’s name in vain.
Perhaps valuing your guns over a human life is taking the Lord’s name in vain.
I encourage the homophobic group singing “How Great Thou Art” to take those lyrics to heart. The first verse states,
Oh Lord, my God
When I, in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds thy hands have made.
Let’s consider a world where everyone is safe — where everyone is celebrated for who God made them to be. A world where the actions and words done in God’s name are congruent with God’s character that we see in Scripture: loving, inclusive and with a focus on justice for the marginalized and outcast in our society.
Erin Albin Hill works at The Center for Church and Community Impact at the Garland School of Social Work at Baylor University. These views are her own.
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