I will love as an act of defiance as a queer man
By Rev. Paul B. Raushenbush
On Sunday morning I was slated to preach at Fort Washington Collegiate Church in New York City when the news of the slaughter in Orlando reached me. I set down my prepared sermon, and stood in front of the congregation and offered a lament and a pledge. What follows is what I remember saying.
I remember dancing most nights when I was at seminary. It was at the downtown nightclubs where I experienced community, transcendence, and joy as people of different races, genders, and sexualities came together in a pulsing interconnected mass, lifting up our arms, creating sacred space with our feet, sweat, our lust, and our loves.
Nightclubs have always been sacred spaces for queer people, places to gather and glitter, away from the judging glares of society. Places where we could love and be loved for who we are and how we want to be.
Our revolution happened at a nightclub — Stonewall — where queers of all genders rose up and said we aren’t fucking taking this shit anymore. I’m remembering that as I consider the death that overtook the dancers at the Orlando gay club called “Pulse.”
Pulse. The beat of the base. Pulse. The beat of life. Pulse. The beat of the heart. Pulse, stopped with gunshots fueled by hate and blood all over the floor. Latinos/Immigrants/Queers proclaiming pride in who they are, in who God made them to be — dancing with their hands raised as bullets sprayed and the pulse faded and gone.
Devastation. Desolations. Grief. At least 50 heartbeats that will never revive. Their beautiful lives now merely ammunition, wood to fuel a destructive fire of recriminations, division and hatred that will consume our nation.
We have a love crisis in our country. Our heart isn’t beating right. Our arteries clogged with clots of distrust and hate. The devil smiles as tears scald, burn, and slice. Queer lives are vanquished and points are scored. We have a love crisis in this country. It is a scarce commodity.
How hard it is to follow the mandate of love today, how corrosive and tempting the call of fear and hate and revenge. But on this day, as hard as it is, I will cling to the mandate to love because I have no other choice. I will trust, as Martin Luther King, Jr. did, that love has a redemptive power. I will love because Jesus tells me to love my enemies.
It will not bring the pulse back to the lives of those who have died. But I will love so that I might resuscitate the pulse of our country.
I will love as an act of defiance as a queer man, that we will not be silenced.
I will love in honor of all those throughout history who have loved and felt silenced and alone. I will love my Muslim neighbors who feel vulnerable, I will love those who would do my friends and neighbors harm. I will love until my own pulse stops, with the prayer that my love might be more powerful than death.
Today I mourn and honor the lives of those who have died with my pulsing heart beating an insistence of love.
TO: SEN. CHRIS MURPHY AND THE U.S. SENATE
As people of faith, we thank Senator Chris Murphy for his prophetic stand against gun violence on the Senate Floor and call on U.S. Senators to honor Murphy’s request for a vote on critical gun safety legislation.
Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush is Senior Vice President of Public Engagement at Auburn Seminary, and the editor of Auburn Voices. Which Voices leave you wanting to hear more? Email us ideas for interviews at firstname.lastname@example.org.