This will be incoherent. And this will not be publicized. I’m not trying to gain readership because of this. For those who stumble across this post, I will be updating it as my anger subsides. But I don’t know why I’m posting this in the ether of the Internet.
I’m just too…. too something to post a Facebook blurb about the various streams of insanity and violence that created that Orlando shooting. Nearly a year after the Emanuel 9 were killed… I’m beyond tired and frustrated… This corrosive mix of violence, identity worship, and technological advantage is consonant with the creation of the Americas…
Yes, many of us are praying and standing in solidarity….
But massacring folks with (the technological advantage of) guns, massacring folk whom you don’t identify with or understand, massacring folk while they reside on their home turf is as “New World” as it gets. It’s Columbus meeting the Arawaks. Its drone strikes. It’s police brutality. It’s gang and drug turf war. It’s Roof in Mother Emanuel. It’s in our streets. It’s in Orlando. It’s the underside of (post)Modernity and rapid technological revolution. Yes, there are concrete causes; every murder is not the same. But this new event is also so exasperatingly old. It’s Modernity’s unprecedented primal narrative. And until we get at the spirit of this repeated happening… Can’t you hear it, brothers and sisters? Blood is crying out from the ground!
I don’t have a social media blurb to condense into pithy sentences what I’m feeling concerning the senseless deaths in Orlando. My commentary is too disorganized and social media ain’t a platform that fosters understanding and compassion any damn way… Understanding and compassion ultimately comes through conversation and touch. Comment bubbles probably don’t qualify… This blog probably doesn’t either… Maybe this will at least inspire me and you to have conversation and to touch… Lord knows we need to…
I’m tired of saying to my congregations pray for the victims and their loved ones. I told them that last year, when the Emanuel Nine were killed during bible study. I’m tired of teaching my students about the culture and epistemology of violence and domination that runs through so much of our cosmovision. I’m tired of explaining to people that guns are a technology that too Americans have no respect for. For the life of me, I’m so sick of second amendment defenders in a nuclear age. When will we understand that going into a bar with a knife and a sword and an intent to kill is not the same as going into a club with an AR with an intent to kill? The refrain: “Guns don’t kill people. People do.” That’s pedestrian thinking. People wielding guns kill a bunch of people. People wielding a knife and a sword don’t-unless they are samurai or Uma Thurman in Kill Bill–and well, that’s a movie. Acting as if guns are just like any other weapon in human history is stupidity to me. Running is not horseback is not driving is not piloting an airplane. Guns, like bombs, require the least amount of skill to achieve their outcome. Of course they do. That’s what they’re designed to do. That’s why they are so deadly. “Guns don’t kill people” is so full of holes it infuriates me everytime I hear it…. As if technology doesn’t change our humanity and perceptions of time and space, right and wrong.
The moment we rationalized the deaths of 50,000 in a matter of seconds with an atomic bomb dropped on a land that was home to people we didn’t identify with, we put the ultimate stamp on this violence… With a nuclear sheen to boot…. Aided and abetted by the scientific revolution of Modernity. The bomb already showed us something that we fail to see. I’m talking about the spirit of this… There are spiritual dimensions that are important to consider even as we consider other dimensions…
Moving on… This rant does and means nothing. I’m not so self-important that I believe my words on an obscure blog will shape public discourse. But we must say something. And we must do something. This is not just about gun control and excessive violence though.
To my LGTBQ sisters and brothers, you are more than a sexual identification (to me). You are human beings with full ranges of personality and dreams and ideas. But too often, your humanity is reduced to sexuality as if you are not comprised by a complexity that all humans have. I don’t say that to gloss over difference or sexual orientation/identification, I say that because folks lost more than partners and spouses. Folks lost family members, friends, co-workers, etc. In other words, I’m simply saying LGTBQ folk are human beings. This kind of shooting can only take place in the midst of dehumanization. And this dehumanization is specific. It was targeted upon those who are not in the heterosexual norm. And this murderous dehumanization is demonic. We must be honest how identity in modernity has always been political, contentious, and violent… And as both clergy and theologian, I am unabashedly clear that religion–Christianity in particular–has been complicit in the violence against our LGBTQ sisters and brothers. I don’t have all the answers. But as a descendant of slaves, I am suspicious of the ability of the theologal–the things we hold as ultimate–to justify oppression, death, and hatred.
The dehumanization that identity allows us to get away with is getting on my last nerve. This tragedy is also caused by the ways in which identity is used to bludgeon and kill in this world. We (post)moderns are worshippers of identity and folks must be put to death if their identity does not gel with ours. And killing for this type of cause must be globalized. This is the state of the world now. This mad mad world. We are disconnected from the land, from each other, from the Divine Source of Life and Love. We are disconnected from the pursuit of wholeness.
And if I hear some Christian say anything close to, “this was God’s will or, they had it coming….” Ooooooooooweeeeeee…..
We will scour over the perpetrator’s life, family, and connections. Lone wolf? Homophobic perp? Radicalized Muslim? In the closet repression? The speculation will be endless. This has been labeled a hate crime and an act of terrorism. Trump supporters will be emboldened though we just lost and eulogized the greatest sports figure of the 20th century, and he was a Muslim. Politicians and misanthropes and pundits will beat their chests and point their fingers to what the motive was and how this is about terrorism and not guns. Or how this is about guns and a combination of terror and hate.
This is a cluster&@)#%. Yeah. That’s what it is. My proclamation is neither fanatical or fatalist. But it’s a proclamation of judgement nonetheless. The unprecedented violence that spawned Modernity will not be dealt with until it’s confronted. And the longer this festers, the more repugnant the smell, the more desolate the landscape, and the more fragmented our relationships will be. This is not a call to arms. This is not a call to violent rebellion. We are not waging war against guns, armies, governments, nation-states, identities, or anything physical. This is not a “spiritual” battle away in some esoteric space that is only comprised of angels and demons. This is a meeting of material and spiritual. This battle is a battle over what we ultimately trust in, hope for, and love…
Every Sunday, my congregation and I recite our tradition’s greatest commandment. Love of God and of Neighbor. But this country… This vapid state of affairs is sick. We love our rights more than we love people. We love our identities more than we love people. We love our money more than we love people. We love our political persuasions more than we love people. We love our religions more than we love people. We love our sacred texts more than we love people. We love our guns more than we love our neighbors. The way in which we choose which neighbors are more important let’s me know that we don’t love our neighbors.
My tradition holds that I cannot love God whom I have not seen if I do not love my brothers and sisters I see every day. And my brothers and sisters are Samaritans and strangers, not just the group I identify with, know, or understand… No this love especially tries to touch groups I do not identify with or understand. Because the limits of identity and understanding should never limit love… That’s wholeness.
Idolatry is real, sisters and brothers. Idols are created with our hearts, minds, and spirits and we will sacrifice ourselves, our children, and our future to them… What other word can I use when I see us willing to kill and demonize each other over devotion and loyalty to the creations of our own hands and minds? We live in idolatrous times.
…the limits of our identities and understanding should never limit our love… That’s wholeness.
But I’m tired. This is madness. This is vapid. This is hate. This is opportunism. This is our world. May the ancestors, God, and all that is good and holistic in this universe help us all and let us help one another.
And news cycles will forget about this act of death as quick as they forgot about Ali’s Life Celebration. But the spirit of historical amnesia for the sake of progress is in this place’s DNA… Resist this vapid and polluted air we respirate. We need loving inspiration. Breathe.
Trust in love, hope for love, and love love…
©2016 M. J. Sales