February 8, 2018
Baptists, speak out against violence toward LGBTQ people
To the editor:
The current administration in Washington has emboldened particular groups and individuals to commit more violence against minority communities than our nation has seen in decades. The New York City Anti-Violence Project’s annual “Crisis of Hate” report shows a shocking 86 percent increase in hate-based murders of LGBTQ people in the year following Trump’s inauguration. In 2017, the report showed that there were 52 LGBTQ hate-based murders, an average of one a week. This amount was up dramatically from 2016’s total of 28.
While LGBTQ and civil rights organizations are strongly urging greater protections for the community, the government has shown almost no concern. What’s even more troubling is the silence and indifference of far too many Baptist leaders and churches.
Churches preach love and compassion from the pulpits. but where are they when the LGBTQ community is under attack? As a gay Baptist minister, I believe our churches should be the first to call for an end to such violence against anyone, including LGBTQ folk. Our churches should be the first to defend and offer protection to those who are under attack and suffer discrimination. Baptist churches should be the first to urge their congregants to get involved in the struggle for equality, but sadly for many, there is only deafening silence in response to hate directed toward LGBTQ folk.
I ask myself, is their silence due to their belief that homosexuality is sinful and therefore any attack on the LGBTQ community is permissible? Is their silence due to a political affiliation they don’t wish to challenge by confronting this current administration’s homophobia and transphobia? Is their silence due to an indifference to the suffering of people they’ve been told God doesn’t love? Sadly, I think the answers for many Baptist churches to one of more of these questions is yes, if they’re honest with themselves.
As Baptists, we’re called above all to love our neighbor as God has loved us. That is the most inclusive and compassionate expression of love. It’s never meant judging our neighbors. It’s never meant dismissing their humanity because we disagree with their sexuality or gender identity. It’s never meant remaining silent while our fellow human beings are harassed, assaulted and murdered. Perhaps this theological clarification on God’s love is useful because it would appear it’s been reduced to only include those who look like, believe like, love like and vote like they we do.
Baptist leaders and congregants, I urge you to speak out publicly against this violence toward the LGBTQ community. Use your voice and physical witness to reflect the love of God by defending your neighbors who’re targets under an administration that devalues them as people. In our silence, we risk becoming complicit to the evil that destroys not only the lives of those it targets but also the spirits of those who’ve become indifferent to the suffering it brings. Let us pray for an end to hatred and violence while taking an active role in dismantling the very structures and beliefs that maintain them in the name of God’s redemptive love. Speak Baptists, the world is listening!
Maurice Bojangles-Blanchard, Louisville, Ky.