One person pulls the trigger, but hundreds more load the gun
Police respond to the shooting at the Pulse in Orlando, Fla., where 49 people at the gay nightclub lost their lives on June 12.

One person pulls the trigger, but hundreds more load the gun

‘People hated people like me enough to literally kill us,’ writes an LGBTQ pastor who grew up in Orlando, in the shadow of churches that stand in judgment

When we began worship Sunday morning, the news said 20 people were dead in Orlando.

By the time I took off my robe and stole an hour later, it said 49, plus the shooter. The worst mass shooting by an individual in American history.

Orlando is my hometown. The LGBTQ community is my family. All afternoon I waited to hear if any of my friends had been killed.

So far, there has been no bad news for me. But my good news is someone else's worst nightmare.

They were all someone's friend, and it's always someone's hometown.

* * *

I think about the worst anti-gay bully I knew in high school. He's a police officer in town now. A few years ago, I tried to reach out to him to talk about whether he had changed. He never responded.

I wonder whether he responded to the shooting.

I wonder if today, standing in the wreckage of hate, he finally got it.

I think about the churches that for years have made Orlando the home of ex-gay ministries like Exodus International. The same ones that after the shooting proclaimed they were “praying for Orlando” while carefully avoiding all mention of LGBTQ people.

Growing up in Orlando I remember the local megachurch sending anti-gay flyers to my school. I remember the fear they instilled. I remember friends kicked out of their houses for being gay.

Over 20 years later I'd like to think things have changed. But today I also remember all those downtown churches that still teach “love the sinner, hate the sin.”

Churches in whose literal shadows this gay bar stands. Churches who say they love gay people with one breath and run ex-gay ministries out of their basements in the other.

I have no time for their words of grief. Because here's the thing about hate crimes: one person pulls the trigger, but hundreds more load the gun. Hate crimes don't happen in isolation. They happen because people are taught hate, and institutions with power make that hate acceptable.

I think about how this shooting will be twisted into anti-Muslim hatred.

I think about how any observant Muslim would have been eating breakfast before the sun came up today because it's Ramadan. They wouldn't be shooting up a club. Anyone who would is as Muslim as a Klan member is Christian.

But mostly, I think about the LGBTQ youth in Orlando.

When I was 20, a bomb went off at a gay bar near my college. For the first time in my life, I realized that people hated people like me enough to literally kill us.

After this past weekend, these young people are learning that same hard truth. And they will never be the same.

* * *

On Sunday night, a crowd gathered in front of the church. We lit candles and raised them up. We shared our prayers and grief and anger and hope. But before we left, we raised our light up against a darkening sky.

In the end, only the words of the Gospel comfort me. “The light shines in darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.”

Not hate. Not violence. Not evil.

May God's light be upon Orlando, and the LGBTQ community.

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