Tragedies bring out the best and worst in people it seems. Seeing the unity and enormous support the people of Orlando have shown each other following the gun shooting in the Pulse Nightclub has been an inspiration to people all over the world.
Unfortunately, some have not followed the lead of the people of Orlando and they have attempted to pit vulnerable groups against one another. Calls for bans on all Muslims from entering the country or the racial profiling of Muslims are blatant attempts to instill hatred and fear rather than the unity and love we see daily being exemplified among survivors of the gun shooting and the loved ones of those who lost their lives.
Sadly, when it comes to justice issues, all too often those in positions of power attempt to create antipathy between groups of people who are experiencing oppression or marginalization. Indeed, it is the primary way for those in control to maintain a repressive status quo.
This happened in July of 2015 when an undocumented immigrant tragically shot a woman on a pier in San Francisco. Instead of addressing gun violence, the US Congress decided to try and score political points and focused on demonizing undocumented immigrants. Public safety be damned, Congress forfeited yet another opportunity to lead and instead, attempted to pit victims of gun violence versus the immigrant community. Of course, the end result was that nothing of substance was done for the good of either group, which might have been what Congress intended all along. “If you can’t beat ‘em, split ‘em,” seems to be the rallying cry of those in leadership positions who want to remain in those positions.
For followers of Jesus, pitting groups against one another is antithetical to our faith. Jesus did not come into this world announcing a Kingdom where entrance or favor is gained through the demonization of one group to support another. He opens the gates wide and welcomes all into God’s loving and inclusive embrace. We must follow Jesus’ example and reject this dichotomous approach to achieving fairness. We must call out the leaders in Congress as well as those running for higher office who try to rise in the polls through dividing and creating antagonism and call them to repentance.
As many of us pray weekly for God’s Kingdom to come some day in the future, we must be willing to manifest that Kingdom today. The Kingdom we pray for and live into is a Kingdom where there is no oppressive ruling authority; where no elite group lords their access to resources over others. Our prayer for God’s Kingdom reality is one where all people are welcomed and valued.
Another name often used for the reality we pray for is the “beloved community,” spoken of so eloquently by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and lived out so powerfully by Jesus. The beloved community is, at its very essence, inclusive and welcoming of all people, especially the vulnerable. The beloved community receives all who have been rejected and despised by others. The beloved community refuses the easy option of scapegoating one group to appear preferable to another. The beloved community is neither beloved nor communal unless we all lock arms with one another and work corporately for the realization of justice for all people. No one can be left behind.
The beloved community values our Muslim sisters and brothers and the entire LGBTQ community. As Orlando has shown us, we will not pit one against another.
The beloved community is, above all, rooted in love. Love is the most powerful force in the universe, but it is a force that must be chosen. We must choose to love. We must choose to not allow our differences to divide us, but rather, to celebrate those differences as unique expressions of God’s wonderful creation. Love is what we were created for and love is what we are called to right now. Let God’s beloved community come and let us be faithful to that vision.