The Need for Radical Love

I admit I am writing this just hours after hearing the news of the massacre at the Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando. Information is still pouring in, many questions remain unanswered, and right now we are operating under rumors and supposition as much as facts.

However, right now, I want to talk about what we do know. We know (at the time of writing) that last night 50 people were killed, and at least 53 injured by twenty-three-year-old Omar Mateen. We know it is the worst mass shooting in American history.

We know the shooter’s father says his son “was not driven by religious ideology, but did grow upset after seeing two gay men kissing in Miami a few months ago.

Right now, we are all trying to comprehend what happened. Perhaps we feel rage, sadness, compassion, and perhaps we even feel a little numb, a little jaded in the face of “another shooting.” Perhaps there is even a sneaking, shameful thought that, if these people were keeping the Lord’s commandments, they would not have died.

No matter our reaction, we need to remember that no matter how hard we try, none of us will ever comprehend what we just lost.

If truly “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God[1]” and “even the very hairs of [our] head[s] are all numbered[2]” then the taking of one life, one soul, the losing of all the good, bad, and indifference that soul would have brought to this earth, is a tragedy greater than human expression. Today, we have to multiply that tragedy by 50.

Today, we all mourn. We shake our heads and wonder how anyone could do such a thing. We pray for the victims’ families. We put the flag at half-staff and maybe have a moment of silence in our wards, in our meetings, and at our dinner tables.

This is all good. This is all important. But, for a moment, I want to talk about what we were doing yesterday, and what we will do tomorrow.

Yesterday, the Pulse, by Mormon standards, was a “den of iniquity” that glorified some of the worst “worldly” trends. It celebrated, even glorified, a group that supposedly threatens the heart of our faith and our society: the family. Yesterday, if Mormons had talked about that club, and, more importantly, the people who frequent it, I think many would have said that they love them as children of God, but what they’re doing violates His commandments.

It is the age-old adage of “loving the sinner, but hating the sin.” Unfortunately, in my experience, this phrase is used more as a justification to “hate the sin,” rather than an injunction to love, and to love fully, completely, and without reservation.

As I’ve discussed my experience as a gay Mormon, I have often been asked, “How do I show a gay loved one that I love them, while still saying I support the Church’s standards?”

My answer is usually, “We always know that you support the Church’s standards, we never know that you love us.”

We say that “faith without works is dead[3].” I submit the same is equally true of love.

We must not use love as an excuse to shun, judge, or think less of someone. We shouldn’t focus so much on someone’s “sins” that we forget the incomparable, inimitable, incalculable value of who they are as human beings.

We should not think that just because someone is gay, or trans, or has left the Church, or is in some other way “failing to meet God’s standards” that they have nothing to teach us, nothing to offer us, that they do not know something about the nature of life and the nature of God that we don’t.

We should never be afraid of loving too much, of being too empathetic, too understanding. We should never allow our love for the Church’s standards impede our ability to meet the second great commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves.

I should not have to describe the years of self-loathing, of the depression, and of the suicidal ideation as I came out to gain the sympathy of my Mormon friends and family.

We should not need the massacre of fifty innocent people to gain sympathy for the LGBTQ/SSA community.

So let me say this clearly. I am hurting today. I am hurting today because when Omar Mateen killed 50 people this morning, he told me that because I am gay, I deserve to die. My community is hurting because tonight we lost 50 of our siblings. Today we were reminded in the most horrific way possible how much hatred and discrimination our community faces.

The thing is, yesterday I was hurting too. I was hurting because I was still too afraid to discuss my sexual identity with many people in my life. I was hurting as I watched so many of the people I love face rejection from those who should have been their greatest allies. I was hurting as my religious community cared more about if I was sinning than if I was healthy. Yesterday my community was also hurting as, despite the progress we have made, we still faced systematic, and often overt, homophobia and transphobia every day.

Love is not a trite platitude. Love is not a word to disguise hate and discrimination as charity. Love is not a fleeting thought. Love is not a hasty prayer.

Love is radical. Love accepts people as they are, where they are. Love stands beside the sufferer. Love has no ulterior motive. Love does not fear the judgment of others. Love is action.

So I am pleading with you, in this time of desperate need, LOVE the victims of this tragedy. LOVE their friends and family.  LOVE the LGBTQ/SSA community. Mourn with us because this was an attack on the Queer community.

Comfort us. Stand with us. Walk with us. Walk with us the extra mile. Not just today. Not just tomorrow. For as long as we need you. Without fear, without hesitation, without qualification, LOVE US.

[1] D&C 18: 10

[2] Luke 12:7

[3] James 2:20

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One thought on “The Need for Radical Love

  1. Please stop saying the words “SSA”! Homossexuality is not a desease, and if this group truly supports the LGBTQ community then you guys should stop promoting the “ex gay” movement and start caring about LGBTQ individuals, and telling them it’s ok to be who they are.

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