I haven’t checked on my friend Kevin Garcia in at least two weeks. His prediction was right. We’ve moved on. We had never done anything to reach the gay community before the Pulse shooting, but suddenly we seemed to care. We wept and wailed and mourned on social media. And now? We’re done. It’s no longer in the news cycle. Last week was Dallas and in a few days, the vigils will be over and we’ll be writing about the next tragedy that sweeps our broken-as-f*ck nation.
I don’t think there’s anything anyone can truly say to make any of this better. I certainly have no power to stop senseless killings or to change hardened hearts.
Here’s the truth: I am angry with you. I am discouraged, too. Like many of you, I want to bury my head in the sand or stick my fingers in my ears and close my eyes and just scream. I want all of this to go away. I don’t want it to be true.
But friends, it is true. And it isn’t going away.
Growing up in the Evangelical tradition, I was scared to death of denying Jesus. Countless times, I heard sermons preached on the end of the world. I grew up in the days of the Left Behind series, which was like our own personal Christian horror story. I was talking about the series with a friend recently, who said, “I feel like that series would make the perfect Christian drinking game.”
I was six when a book was published with 88 reasons Jesus was coming back in 1988. It didn’t happen, but I still heard the End of Time sermons around it. For at least the first twenty years of my life, I fully expected the trumpet to sound at any time and Jesus to come bursting through the clouds on a white horse, somewhere above Atlanta. That was about as far east as I could fathom. I imagined the end of the world looked something like a combination of the Holocaust and The Walking Dead. I had heard “Midnight Cry” enough times to know “the dead in Christ” would rise, but what about all the others, the ones who weren’t in Christ? Would they be roaming the streets too?
I couldn’t tell you exactly how many weddings I’ve attended, but I can tell you how many have actually meant something to me. The answer is four. Four weddings where I was in full emotional and spiritual support of the couple coming together before God and their dearest loved ones. The most recent was this wedding that I had the privilege of officiating. I opened up the moment with these words: “I’m pretty sure that by law I have to ask if anyone opposes this wedding… but the real question is, ‘who is wildly excited about this moment?’”
After the brides and I wiped tears from our eyes, we moved forward in the most emotional, supportive, and spiritual wedding I’ve ever been part of. When the only people present are core relationships, you cannot help but be moved.
I am a straight white male from Alabama. I have zero personal connection to any victim of the Orlando shooting, but these are still my people. They are Americans. Deeper than that, they are humans! People who assumed they were safe in a place with their friends. But they weren’t safe, and now I am grieving the tremendous loss, along with so many others.
Many of my straight friends have texted or called me, asking what they can do for me and how they can be there for other queer people who are suffering. The answer is very simple:
Mourn with us. Sit with us. Hold us when we need holding. Be the shoulder for us to cry on. Listen to us process what we are feeling. Pray with us and for us. But, most importantly, don’t make it about you.
At least 50 people are dead and at least 53 others are injured. Fifty something families are wondering if their loved ones will survive a merciless gunshot wound and 50 other families are walking into unnecessary and unexpected grief. Because of fear, mothers and fathers will be burying daughters and sons who were out with friends…and now are dead.