Orlando has never been far from my mind this week. I’m a straight, white, cis-woman, so it isn’t about me, but it is about people I love, and that makes it personal. I am trying to remember this graphic as I process my own grief and fear alongside my LGBTQ loved ones, but I’m still grieving. I still feel fear as I send kids off to Pride events, or attend our a local vigil for the Orlando victims.
I sometimes struggle with how to talk about parenting an LGBTQ kid and being a person of faith. Not because I find the two to be incongruous, but because so many others do. The disbelief of others that my faith led me toward inclusion, rather than away from inclusion often makes me want to separate the two. So while I have written about my faith in the context of the discussion of LGBTQ rights and inclusion, I tend to leave faith out of it. Better to simply know that the two are intertwined than to try to justify it to an unhearing crowd.
But as I was reading last week’s lectionary, and as the massacre in Orlando has weighed on my mind, I realized that the two continue to be linked in ways that I must express.
Last week’s gospel reading was from Luke 7 beginning at the 36th verse. It is the story of the woman in sin who anoints the feet of Jesus. She breaks open her alabaster jar of perfumed oil, wets his feet with her tears, and wipes them with her hair. It is an extravagant display of humility and adoration.
The host is understandably uncomfortable with this display, muttering to himself that Jesus must not be able to see what kind of a sinner was before him.
Jesus takes that opportunity to ask the Pharisee who shows the most gratitude at receiving forgiveness – the one who owes little, or the one who owes much. Simon rightly says that the debtor with the highest obligation will show the greatest amount of love to the one who has canceled that obligation.
When I bring that into the context of a discussion about the LGBTQ community, it can be easy to cast the gay man or the trans woman as the woman. The ones with the Big Sins which need to be forgiven. We see the shooter as the woman, needing to repent of his murderous decisions. We see leaders that say “God hates fags” or who call of the execution of the gays as the woman, needing to be more gentle in their dealing with those who are LGBTQ.
We see the man who shot the patrons of Pulse as the perpetrator of violence, but we turn a blind eye to the way that calling a person’s gender identity perverted can lead to depression resulting in death. We shake our heads at the obscene words of Westboro Baptist, but we ignore the way that asking a lesbian to remain celibate and alone can sound even more hateful. We look down our noses at countries jail people for even being gay, while we speak from the pulpits encouraging people to vote against equal rights for LGBTQ people. We protest protections for transgender people in the bathroom. We say “love the sinner, hate the sin,” while often being unable to untangle the two. We separate, we demean, we patronize, we exclude. All the while, turning a blind eye to these sins of pride and judgment.
When we ignore our own sin, we miss the beauty of being the woman anointing Jesus.
When she saw her sin, her response was to lay down at the feet of Jesus. It was to pour out something of value. It was to weep enough tears to wash away the dirt and grime and shit that had accumulated there. It was to use something that she and no doubt others considered a standard of beauty as a tool to wipe away that very dirt and grime and shit. The recognition of her sin led her to a vast outpouring of humility and affection.
For years I believed that LGBTQ people were the sinners. Their love was sinful. Their affection were an affront to God. When I realized that what was sinful was my exclusionary view, my haughty ideology – it changed me. When I saw that it wasn’t the LGBTQ community that was the woman, but rather that I was the woman – my only response was to love Jesus more, to love my friends and family more.
I ask the Church today to examine the ways that we have sinned against our LGBTQ friends and family. What are the ways that we have caused people to feel alone, rejected, outcast? What are the ways we have wounded those who want to worship in the pews with us? What are the ways we have inflicted pain to those wanting to share their lives with someone they love? What are the ways that we have contributed to the deaths of countless other LGBTQ men and women before Orlando?
When we cling to our sin, we cannot be extravagant with our love. But when we see it, and accept forgiveness, our love pours forth like oil and tears and kisses at the feet of Christ.
photo credit: Wayne Forte