By Chris Markert, Bishop’s Associate for Mission
On Sunday, November 20, I awoke to hear of another massacre at an LGBTQ club, this time in Colorado Springs. Once again multiple lives were sacrificed at the altar of this nation’s gun god. There was no irony that November 20 was also Transgender Day of Remembrance.
- “Why are we celebrating Transgender Day?”
- “Why don’t we celebrate ‘Straight Day’ or ‘Never Been Divorced Day’?”
- “Stop dividing us! All lives matter…”
But as the massacre at Club Q points out, not everyone is valued, nor is everyone allowed to live their lives peacefully.
Transgender Day of Remembrance is not meant to be a day of celebration. It is a day to remember those who have tragically died at the violent hands of others because they happen to be transgender. It is a day to point out that violence against LGBTQ people, and especially transgender people, happens at rates significantly higher than other populations… and continues to happen, as the Club Q shooting highlights.
It doesn’t help that recently there have been politicians who have begun targeting the LGBTQ community, and specifically transgender people. From bathroom laws, to high school sports, from drag queen story time, to “don’t say gay” legislation, the LGBTQ community continues to hear from some people in power that they are not worthy of dignity.
And worse, it shows up in horrific ways in the church. It was in June that a Texas pastor preached from the pulpit that LGBTQ people “should be convicted in a lawful trial. They should be sentenced with death. They should be lined up against the wall and shot in back of the head. That is what God teaches.” This from the pulpit. In a church. A supposedly Christian church.
Here’s the thing. We are allowed to have our personal and political opinions about social issues. But (and it’s a BIG but), regardless of our opinions, our Christian faith calls us to have compassion for the vulnerable in our midst. Our faith calls us to ways of peace and not violence. To honor the imago dei… the image of God… in every person. Every. Single. Person. Even those we don’t like. Even those whose lives are lived differently than ours.
The ELCA constitutions are clear about our purpose as the Church. We are to “serve in response to God’s love to meet human needs, caring for the sick and the aged, advocating dignity, justice, and equity for all people… caring for the marginalized… and standing in solidarity with the poor and oppressed and committing itself to their needs” (C4.03 of the constitution). We are also to “Respond to human need, work for justice and peace, care for the sick and the suffering, and participate responsibly in society” (C4.03).
This means we take time to honor those who have been murdered or harmed, as we do on Transgender Day of Remembrance. It means we use our voice and our power to create changes in a culture caught up in violence and hate. It means we have compassion for those who need it. And it means we take the side of the oppressed in defiance of the oppressor. For this is the way of Christ.
So, this is why there is a Transgender Day of Remembrance and not a “Straight Day” or “Non-Divorced Day,” because straight people and non-divorced people are not being slaughtered just for existing.
It is time for us as the Church to be unequivocal in our response to violence against the LGBTQ community. The world is watching. And LGBTQ people are crying out in fear and grief.