Great Grief

A year ago this week, I was in my pjs, watching the golden girls- a ritual that ends most of my days. That summer I had been trying not to check my phone just before going to sleep, but I couldn't resist. I swiped at the screen opening twitter and the first thing my eyes focused on was a tweet from Chris Hayes announcing a shooting in a black church. 

I was devastated. 

After a year of proclaiming "black lives matter"

After writing out my thoughts and feelings on Trayvon and Jordan and Walter and Michael and Dajerria and too many others

it had all culminated in my own devastation

Here we are, one year later and in the same week as we reflect on this massacre, we endure the pain of another which took the lives of 49 mostly brown and black LGBT people, and traumatized many more. 

I cant tell you how tired I am of speaking of death. 

Back in January, I taught a mini class on The New Jim Crow. At the end of each class period, I carved out half an hour to interrogate how our theology requires us to respond to our lesson. While preparing for a particular class, I turned to 1 John 4:18 to add it to my notes for the class. I could quote the first half of the verse off the top of my head, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear." However, as I reflected on this passage, I read the next seven words with new eyes, "for fear has to do with punishment." Fear & Punishment had been exactly what I was trying to name since I learned Trayvon Martin's name. 

Fear & Punishment- the connection I have desperately been trying to name in unpacking the insidious nature and real consequences of white supremacy. 

Fear & Punishment have too long been the dominate (Christian religious) rhetoric surrounding the LGBTQ community, and it is rare that I hear Christians even acknowledge the existence of Intersex or Asexual persons.  

Fear & Punishment have been America's standard operating procedure for interacting with marginalized communities. 

And the death toll rises.

And so does the grief and the trauma and the tears and the pain and the frustration and the exhaustion and the anger and the rage.

Every time there is a tragic hate crime, specifically attacking a marginalized community, I see lots of pithy words on colorful backgrounds in decorative text. I see avatars that have changed colors, or filters or images. I see a ton of beautiful connections and support between the members of the marginalized communities most impacted. I even see expressions of allyship from friends and family members. We have had so many massacres in this country, all the above have become in many ways necessary.

What I wish was also considered necessary was an interrogation of the fears that drive the desire for punishment. I wish our rhetoric around love had more teeth. I wish we could see the connection between homophobia, islamophobia, and white supremacy (which is just a collection of phobias held by whiteness) and death. I wish we had the courage to call these acts of terror monstrous,

and ask ourselves what we have in common with the monster. 

It is often said that we hate what we fear. What we rarely talk about is that hate has demands. Hate is not disarmed. Hate requires blood. 

This is a great grief that we bare today. It is almost unreal that we are navigating the grief of one massacre while reflecting on another. Except it becoming a too familiar feeling.   

I have found myself, this week, oscillating between grief and hope, anger and love, frustration and defiance. It is entirely possible that if I deleted this post and wrote another in an hour, you'd get a completely different Austin. Thankfully the Spirit of God, Spirit of Love is not limited to my little blog post of the day, is not threatened by my text on a website, is not bounded by own fears for the safety of the communities I love. This is perhaps my gift of the day- that God is God and I am not. God isnt relying on my hopefulness. God isnt in need of my happy footnote on a day of great sadness. 

And so I rely on Scripture instead of my own feeble words. "For whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because God first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother." 

May the Spirit of God that casts out fear permeate our hearts and lead to transformative action such that fear and punishment must succumb to love.

Austin Brown