Last night, I attended the second vigil held here in Pittsburgh following the horrific massacre of LGBTQIA+ persons in Orlando. They were very different from one another. The first vigil was smaller, but had more of a feeling of community and mutual support. It helped me let go of many of the things I was feeling as well as pay tribute to those who were viciously murdered or harmed. It was exactly what I needed to move through those emotions and towards action. The second was larger, almost a mix of rally and vigil, organized by a group of clergy, and hosted by the city of Pittsburgh. For me, as a nonbeliever, the prayers and talk of God was a little challenging, although I’m sure for many participants, the event was helpful and meaningful.

Every speaker brought something of import to the whole of the vigil. For example, the head of the local Muslim faith spoke beautifully, and expressed what is so crucial to acknowledge– that the act of this killer, and acts against LGBTQIA+ persons by groups such as ISIL, are not aligned with Muslim teaching. He stressed the Muslim community stands in solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community.

But in this post, I want to talk a bit about all the prayers and talk of God. Others have already articulated on Social Media that prayers are not enough, and I agree with that sentiment. What I’m more interested in, is what are these clergy going to do now? How will they, within their positions as leaders of their respective faith communities, going to take real action and inspire others to take actions that can stop the spread of hatred and violence against LGBTQIA+ persons. I don’t mean that to sound accusatory, nor do I mean to suggest that they are not already taking actions. I know they are within their own churches. But today, that isn’t enough. Bigotry, hatred and violence towards LGBTQIA+ persons is perpetrated in the name of God. Some would say, religion is the root of this homophobia and bigotry. It isn’t enough to simply pastor a few congregations and lead them as welcoming and inclusive safe spaces. What can and will these clergy do in a bigger and broader way?

Here are a few examples of why leaders in the religious community must do more.

Quoted from People Magazine: (bolded emphasis is mine)

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has faced a social media backlash for what some perceive as anti-gay commentary after Sunday’s mass shooting at a popular Orlando, Florida, gay nightclub.

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows,” Patrick tweeted Sunday morning, quoting the Bible, hours after a mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse which left at least 50 people dead and 53 injured. Officials have called the attack the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

Patrick posted the same verse to his Facebook page soon after. Both posts were deleted before noon.

In a statement released Sunday, a spokesperson for Patrick said there was no connection between the tweets and the shooting.

“Regarding this morning’s scripture posting on social media, be assured that the post was not done in response to last night’s tragedy,” the statement said. “The post was designed and scheduled last Thursday…We regret the unfortunate timing of these posts and ask everyone to join us in praying for the people of Orlando in this awful time.”

Many users on both platforms read Patrick’s quotation as anti-gay, as that verse (and the one succeeding it) have frequently been quoted as evidence of Christianity’s intolerance of gays.

Again, here is that notion that praying is enough… but more importantly, here is also a perfect illustration. The Bible has become “owned” by the homophobic and bigoted. What can clergy do to take back ownership of Scripture and stop it from being used as a weapon of hatred?

Will these clergy raise their voices so that ultra religious conservative voices of lies get challenged? Here is Pat Robertson of the 700 Club’s statements: (bolded emphasis is mine)

Today on “The 700 Club,” televangelist Pat Robertson reacted to the massacre at an Orlando gay club by making the absurd claim that liberal LGBT rights advocates have aligned themselves with radical Islamists and are now reaping what they have sowed.

Robertson said that liberals are facing a “dilemma” because they love both LGBT equality and Islamic extremism, and that it is better for conservatives like himself not to get involved but to instead just watch the two groups kill each other.

“The left is having a dilemma of major proportions and I think for those of us who disagree with some of their policies, the best thing to do is to sit on the sidelines and let them kill themselves,” he said.

Where has that notion of reap what you have sowed come up recently? (See above) For many God fearing Christians, Robertson is a leader. Will clergy who know better allow him to go unchecked and unconfronted?

Some Christian preachers are even more vile:

The good news is that there’s 50 less pedophiles in this world, because, you know, these homosexuals are a bunch of disgusting perverts and pedophiles. That’s who was a victim here, are a bunch of, just, disgusting homosexuals at a gay bar, okay?

This comes from a 4 minute video by the Baptist preacher. Where is the religious outrage towards this type of hateful rhetoric?

In some regard, all the clergy who participated in the vigil were easy choices. They come from very accepting denominations and churches, but someone within the Methodist church– a denomination still virulently opposed to LGBTQ inclusion, stands as an example of what I’m talking about. Here, she calls out the policies of the Methodist Church at large, for the ways it is complicit: (bolded emphasis is mine)

Is it possible that we United Methodists with such a negative attitude and position against LGBTQI persons contribute to such a crime? When we say that those who are of a homosexual gender identity are living lives that are incompatible with Christian teaching, that they are not to be included in our ordained leadership, and that they are not important enough for us to invest resources of the Church in advocating for their well-being, in essence when we say that our LGBTQI brothers and sisters are not worthy of the fullness of life that Christ offers us all, are we not contributing to the kind of thinking that promotes doing harm to these our brothers and sisters, our children, the sacred children of God?

This is the type of action we need from clergy! Replace your prayers with a loving confrontation of what is not right within the church and within the religion as a whole!

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