Communities of Justice

I recently had the opportunity to speak at a small Christian university’s chapel about sexuality, friendship, justice, and the calling of the church. You can listen to the message here. If you don’t have 27 minutes or if you hate references to Harry Potter in talks about sexuality, I cobbled together a partial transcript of the second half of the presentation below. There’s so much else to say, but hopefully it’s a small encouragement.

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[After an opening section on the connection between, friendship, empathy, and social justice]:

Friendship, knowledge of someone, creates the foundational commitment that enables acts of mercy and justice to be meaningful, mutual, and ultimately good. Trying to serve people without developing friendship and empathy will only cause harm.

We nod our heads about friendship and community and service, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of daily life, of making substantive changes to our communities, most Christians leave sexual minorities to fend for themselves.

Gay/SSA Christians frequently feel stuck and isolated between a broader society that increasingly stigmatizes and misunderstands our religious convictions and a church that is often disinterested in or openly hostile to our existence. The church is our family, and yet we have to fight so hard not to be held at arm’s length.

And this is the thing, right? People have tried to “solve” the “problem” of gay people without first befriending and becoming family with us. And I think is because, if I can be stupidly honest again, straight people know that if they ask the right questions about sexuality, they will be called into action, forced change their lives in substantive ways. So instead of a good question, like “What would it take for celibacy (or the traditional sexual ethic) to be experienced as abundant and good?” it’s been easier for people in positions of power to simply place the whole burden on the shoulders of sexual minorities themselves.

This is why it was so popular to say, “Just become straight” or “Just marry someone of the opposite gender” or, as is more popular now, “Why don’t you just shut up about it and stop making problems?” All of that places all the weight entirely on gay people, and requires nothing of the rest of the church community. When it does this, the church is simply avoiding responsibility, and it deserves to be called out for that.

[This is followed by some comments on the particular failures of church communities to embody a healthy sexual ethic]:

And I think this is because, honestly, a lot of our churches have not had a really good social ethic. Have not served our communities in really meaningful, good, or just ways. This is why I think any Christian or any church that wants to have a coherent sexual ethic must also have a rich social ethic and vision for familial community.

Sexuality at its core is about how we relate to people, how we give and receive love in a way that brings life into the world. And sure, that can be sex, right? That’s the obvious one. Procreation. Babies flying out of the womb. Like, that’s the obvious way to bring life into the world. But I’ve found as I’ve participated in community organizing or mentoring or other things like that, that I’m bringing life into the world in my own way – and that’s important and valuable, and I hadn’t [learned to find much value in that]. As Eve Tushnet says, “There are so many ways to love that we have not been trained to see.”

The story of the last five or six years of my life has been learning to see ways in which I am able to love with the full gift of myself and bring life into the world in a meaningful and profound way.

All of this [beauty of] community, though, is only possible if you first learn to become my friend, and together we learn to do justice and love mercy in our communities.

Here’s the thing, guys. I need you to take friendship and community serious, because I, and people like me, don’t have much of a future without you. And – maybe you haven’t really thought about this – you don’t really have much of a future without me. Without us. We need each other, because we are already one body. And if we don’t live in a way that acknowledges the fact that we share the bond of Jesus Christ between us and work to become communities of justice, then we’ve missed it.

[Some comments directed toward the students, followed by the conclusion]:

I’m going to close, I guess, with something I wished for every time someone spoke in chapel about sexuality. This is for everyone, but specifically for those of you here who find yourselves outside the standard gender or sexual norm: You are beautiful, your bodies are good, and you have so much love to give. Live deep into your gifts and callings, and use them to bless those around you, proclaim the gospel, and create a more just society. You are worthy of a family to surround and support you – a family that you can serve and support, yourselves. And the church – imperfect as it is – is better off with you in it.

And I hope you know that when God sees you – in all your human messiness – the heavens erupt with a furiously affectionate

I love you

I love you

I love you

I love you

I love you

******

The rest of the talk (one more time!) can be found here.

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The Luxury of Division

First: Julie Rodgers (who apparently isn’t dead, despite the funerary tone of many articles) is a dear friend who has endured far more gross scrutiny with far more grace than most people would be capable of. Her urgent passion to serve those who have been marginalized by society has made the world a better place, and I am sure that wherever she decides to minister next she will witness to God’s love through deep friendships, hospitable spaces, and simple human kindness.[1]

Second: A few years ago I was visiting a small Palestinian town that had lost much of its surrounding land to illegal settlements and was facing restricted access to its ancestral olive groves. After a Catholic mass in the morning we all (local Catholics included) attended a lunch hosted by the evangelical church before being shown around the village by the Greek Orthodox priest. I couldn’t help but marvel at the familial closeness displayed between those from various church traditions as they worked together to welcome this obtrusive group of college students into their threatened home. It was more than mere cooperation; it was genuine friendship.

While chatting with one of the hosts I mentioned how struck I was by the ecumenical character of the village and the solid relationships between the different Christians. He tilted his head. “Our land is being stolen, people are leaving, the olive groves are being terrorized, and we are at risk of forgetting who we are. Unlike some places in the world, we do not have the luxury or the time to be divided.”

In 21st century American churches, however, division seems to be almost all we have time for.

This past week, like most weeks before it, has been a bit of a beast. I can’t be the only one worn down by the sheer volume of blog posts and Twitter explosions that dominate social media. I get it, though. Really. Theology is important, and the topic of faith and sexuality is deeply significant.

But what makes weeks like this so ugly is not the presence of controversy so much as the absence of charity. More exhausting than the immense drama that surrounds disagreements on sexual ethics, perhaps, is the sheer glee with which some people disavow/expose/denounce/break-ties-with others, the speed with which social media can become a mass-grave of ‘good opinions’ thrown out while they were still warm. Far too many commentators seem completely unconcerned that their caustic words are directed at actual human beings made in God’s image, unmoved by the reality that their sentences may be poisoning someone’s understanding of what Christian ‘love’ really looks like. I know quite a few people who have received this week like a wound.

We’ve forgotten that we, as humans, belong to each other, and I don’t know what to do about that except grieve.

But, actually, maybe that’s the appropriate response. Maybe that’s the first step to a more honest witness. Grief, at least, begins with an acknowledgment that people have been wounded, relationships have been ruptured, and communities have often been sources of pain and stigma.

Lament beholds the broken world as it is and forces us to consider how we might enter into that brokenness, how we might need to change to become more effective agents of healing and redemption. And this, I think, clears a small space in which empathy can take root and grow into friendship or community with people different than ‘us’ (whatever ‘us’ looks like for someone).

Friendship, or even just ‘relationship,’ isn’t some magic panacea that soothes all division and removes the need for difficult conversations. Hardly. There are still the fraught issues of policy and church life and public response and so much else to deal with. But at the same time I have been consistently surprised at how resilient friendship is, how it can bear the weight and tension of various disagreements and still be a source of beauty.

I find it hard to believe, then, that the most faithful way to pursue Jesus’ high priestly prayer – ‘that they may be one…’ – is through reflexive tribalism; there has to be a better alternative. Painful disagreement may sometimes be unavoidable, and division inevitable, but I think we suffer when we as Christians allow rejection and alienation to become habits, when we cease to lament the tragedy of fragmentation.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that Palestinian village this past week. I know it isn’t perfect, that there are still struggles and disputes and miscommunications, but I am thankful there are people in the community who, at the very least, have recognized that they need each other, that they don’t have the ‘luxury’ of treating each other as disposable. Perhaps it is unsurprising that the Christians in that village have a healthy relationship with the Muslim population as well – in their volatile context they each see the other as necessary for their own well-being and for the future of the community.

I’m not holding up that village as some sort of model or analogy. I’m not even sure what that would look like. But I am saying that I witnessed something profoundly Christlike in their acknowledged connectedness, something that I feel we in the States have too casually abandoned.

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[1] Julie, if you’re reading this, please wait at least two years before becoming a psychopathic axe-murderer or else I’m going to look so stupid.

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Avoiding Hypocrisy as the Church

Hey! Long time no me-doing-anything-remotely-related-to-maintaining-this-blog. Hope you’ve been well. I recently contributed to a series on sexuality and the church over at OnFaith, focusing on ways his current church community is modeling a traditional sexual ethic that avoids much of the hypocrisy found in more conservative churches. Some excerpts:

When I joined, I simply became a part of that redemptive movement. This is an enormous blessing, because — believe it or not — I really want to proclaim the gospel through ministry and advocacy. (And, as a white dude brimming with privilege, learning how to do this in a way that doesn’t reinforce inequality can be a challenge!) I want to be a Christian, and I want my church to urge the congregants on in our shared vocation of pursuing justice for the marginalized (which includes a sizable portion of the church population itself).

Often lgbt+ Christians are treated as if we have one job this side of Jesus’ return: don’t have gay sex. But, as Eve Tushnet so quotably stated, “You can’t have a vocation of no,” of only avoiding something. We need something to live for, and let me say that Christianity never makes more sense to me than when I am witnessing or participating in a Christian community that is unified toward imitating and proclaiming Jesus’ liberative gospel.

And:

It continues to amaze me how hard celibate lgbt+ people have to work to find space in churches that claim a more traditional sexual ethic. The social burdens experienced by sexual minorities in these communities vary widely, but usually include increased scrutiny and suspicion, painful comments from congregants who may or may not know about one’s sexuality, reduced ministry possibilities (e.g. I was once stripped of an internship and prevented from helping with a youth group because I was attracted to men), insanely exhausting language policing,**** and at times, the general ache of being single in a culture that over-valorizes marriage and romance to the detriment of the church’s calling to be family.

I’m not sure how churches decided that the best ‘defense’ of the traditional sexual ethic is to place excessive burdens on those trying to abide by it and then fail to provide the support structures that would make such an ethic intelligible and healthy . . . but, well, here we are.

I believe the traditional sexual ethic is beautiful and good — I try to live according to it for a reason! — but I also believe that the way churches have approached the topic of human sexuality has largely failed to do any justice to the scope and nuance of the doctrine and has, in fact, done injustice to countless people who should have found a home and family within the church, and this requires sincere repentance.

Read the Whole Article at FaithStreet.

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Poem: Easter Sunday

So that’s that:
another matter-of-fact year
with another matter-of-fact re-conquering
of death and all death’s forces done
while we – and you, I guess – slept.

But they tell me you were lightning
coursing through the earth’s crusted veins,
quickening plasma crashing in
with all the thunder
of a fluttering gasp and a heartbeat back

into the quiet dark. Which makes me
wonder, How long did you lie there,
loving the stale air and calm
before rolling off onto the
ground and into glory?

Do you miss them,
those few minutes when
no one knew you were alive and
you could finally rest with your miracles
of breath, stone, and solitude?

And is this to be my sanctification,
darkening blood and a stone-turning chest?

Well – sit with me then, in silence,
and think of those first moments.
I will learn to find life in this,
and you will find a home
in my slow-warming grave.

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Poem: Holy Saturday in L.A.

The darkest day on earth was stone-dry and sunny,
light breeze, vain clouds behind their blue-veil screens and
not sure what to wear to the funeral.
Anything would do, I muttered
while squinting and wandering
past tile, concrete, fake lawns and
ugly fountains perfectly constructed as
ugly toads, spitting.

And the old stone church spit lies
out the back door,
some rogue organist playing God
by playing Christ
the Lord Is Risen Today
and I had to bite back a surging
Allelujah! and lenten blushing
amidst brashly assenting birdsong.

Jesus felt more dead
when I lived in Chicago,
where numbness crept early over me
along with the wet dark
and my shivering might have been theirs
as they stared at brick walls, waiting
for the rising star or falling crescent to
press through and tell the truth.

But here I am watching drought
transform dust only to dust –
nothing new under the mundane sun.
The miracle would be in the mud,
in the witness of darkness
salving our blighted eyes that believe
in life before resurrection
and vision before first light.

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Poem: Good Friday

So, a goal of my Lent this year was to reflect upon the coming Easter weekend through the lens of the various realities that Lent so inevitably confronts me with – human mortality, desolation, need, and disorientation – and then to (probably unadvisedly) respond with three poems, one for each day (Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday), addressing how these days, too, can be sources of pain and confusion in their own ways. (Especially since they came up too fast to really finish the poems!)

All that obnoxious introduction to say: they’re messy and maybe a little bit blasphemous, but perhaps only in the way Psalm 39 or Christ’s cry of abandonment on the cross might have been. Feel free to ask questions.

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Good Friday:

 

I swing passion like hammer blows
to pin you up, keep you
from peeling off
blood-keeping beams –

I need time to see meaning in this,
more time to find mystery or some
shook-foil reflection flipped in your
concave chest as it dilates

wild eyes sliding down you like sweat
that makes the coverslip stick.
And yet for all the burnt-black prayers your
flat stare sees crust over white-knuckled believing

every fucked up year
isn’t it us you leave hanging

because one-thousand nine-hundred and eighty five
days of you dying have not been enough to
explain this earth
you so love

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Label Makers

Well, three months of pretending I had better things to do than blog have come to an end. I have a new post over at Spiritual Friendship on labels and social identity and why the energy some Christians are putting into fighting words is preventing them from truly serving others. Check it out here.

An excerpt:

‘In high school, before I ever used the word ‘gay,’ before I had even admitted to myself that I wasn’t attracted to women, I was being psychologically torn to pieces by other Christians’ (and my own) manner of talking about gay people. Even as I trumpeted things like, “There’s no such thing as a gay Christian,” “They chose to be that way,” and other homophobic aphorisms, I knew that something about me was a lot like something about them and that I could never, ever be open about it.

 

By trying to clearly maintain a linguistic boundary between gay people and people in the church, Christians not only make Church teaching unnecessarily unintelligible to non-Christian gay people (and, really, non-Christians in general) but run the risk of inflicting harm on young people in the church. Whether people want it or not, some youth in the church will see aspects of their experience reflected in the broader culture under the social category of ‘gay’ and not be able to simply divorce their self-understanding from it. Nor should they have to.

 

I choose at times to use the label ‘gay’ both to remind church communities that they cannot talk about LGBT+ people as if they aren’t sitting in their congregations or aren’t beloved friends and family and to provide a visible example that might help other sexual minorities who are wrestling with their self-understanding to avoid some of the trauma I experienced. I didn’t have any role models for this while I was growing up and I desperately needed one. Out of fear of compromising its sexual ethic the Church has inadvertently compromised its more foundational witness of God’s reconciling movement toward humanity.’

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Reflections on the Gay In Christ Conference

A number of writers for Spiritual Friendship recently partnered with Notre Dame’s Institute for Church Life to put on an academic conference titled Gay in Christ: Dimensions of Fidelity. The presentation topics ranged from exegetical frameworks to trans issues to discerning vocations to rehabilitating the Church’s concept of eros, all with the hope of urging church leaders toward greater understanding, compassion, and pastoral action.

Like any conscientious graduate student would do during midterms, I ignored all my responsibilities and jumped on a plane to Indiana. Here are three brief reflections as an attendee:

It matters who is speaking

A large majority of the presenters were themselves queer, so when they spoke about anything that would impact LGBT people’s lives they did so from a position of deep personal investment; they all obviously cared about how the Church talks and behaves toward sexual minorities because they have all suffered from the far-too-prevalent ignorance and bigotry that has already done so much damage.

For instance, having the person presenting on trans issuesactually be somewhere on the trans spectrum makes an enormous difference. I know, wild. As bad as many Christian conferences have been about addressing LGB concerns, they have been unequivocally worse when it comes to respecting and learning from trans people. Melinda Selmys’ talk was thus a remarkable breath of fresh air, and future conferences must take note.

Rhetoric and posture are close to the heart of the gospel

Let me keep picking on Melinda for a bit. As important as it was that she was speaking on trans issues while being on the spectrum herself, it was equally important how she adamantly made it impossible to universalize her story. She spoke openly not so that the audience members would think they had a firm grasp on trans experience but rather so that they would become more aware of just how little they knew and thus be more capable of (and passionate about!) learning from trans people.*

Melinda typified the posture of all the speakers, who proved that how we speak about these topics truly reflects our commitment to the gospel. Language of the “culture war” was absent, along with any alarmism or arrogance. Although the church was called to greater unity and public witness, this was done not by suggesting it become some inward-turning enclave but rather by urging it to conform more into the body of Christ who is and always has been for the world. I see countless people trying to defend “truth” with language and rhetoric that seem entirely uninterested in communicating the reality of Christ’s love (and thus in all actuality abandoning the truth they’re trying so desperately to defend), so to witness presentation after presentation that spoke truth in such a way that it encouraged the audience toward more profound displays of openness and service was a revelation.

There is so much beauty to be found in the Church

Even as someone who spends a decent chunk of time thinking about and living into the goodness of a traditional sexual ethic, I have to admit that the fever-pitch yelling of the broader “conservative” Christian demographic sometimes makes me doubt there actually is an abundantyes somewhere beyond the cacophony of no. The visions cast by the various speakers powerfully testified to that yesand called the Church to repentance for shackling it to suffocating millstones of legalism and hypocrisy. (As Ron Belgau said in his talk, “Most Christians’ sexual ethic is neither Christian nor ethical.”) It has been a long time since I’ve been so concretely hopeful, and many of the attendees (and speakers) voiced a similar joy.

To catch such a clear glimpse of the beauty that can be found in the traditional ethic made the prevailing homophobia and self-protecting laziness that so often “passes” for it immensely more grotesque and upsetting (as if the devaluing and endangering of sexual minorities wasn’t already enough). As the ideas from the conference begin to disseminate and find a wider audience, I pray people’s hearts would be changed.

The conference wasn’t perfect,** of course, and everyone involved would agree there is much room to grow, but it was certainly a move in the right direction toward a more faithful witness of Christ’s hope for the world.***

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* I say this as someone who has much to learn, myself.

** For instance, the speakers were (with one exception) all caucasian. This is a problem with the LGBTQ conversation as a whole, but the Church should ideally be working ahead of the curve on this one.

*** I would be the absolute worst if I didn’t bring it to everyone’s attention that, for Halloween, Eve Tushnet wore a squid hat. There now exist photos of a squid devouring Eve’s head while simultaneously, it seems, reading Infinite Jest. And the world is a better place because of it.

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…just like everybody else

This was originally posted in February 2013. There have been a number of great articles written recently about similar topics (Julie Rodgers wrote one today), so I figured I’d repost this. So much could be said against this kind of stigma that was and still is so pervasive in more conservative churches – how it tears into young people’s hearts and promotes a brand of poisonous neo-gnosticism – and if you’re interested Spiritual Friendship’s “Identity” tag has some further exploration.

***

I shifted my legs around to restore pin-prick circulation as the conversation stretched into its second hour. Coming-out was rarely a quick ordeal during those early stages of growth and he was only confidante number eleven, I believe. Equal parts disarming sincerity and riotous impulsivity, he had been a dear friend from the first month of college. And then, two years after he first learned my name, he learned my Deepest Secret™.*

As the conversation began to lull, he decided to change the topic a bit. Looking me in the eye he asked, in his typical here-is-a-thought-I-am-literally-having-right-now directness, “So, are you attracted to me?”

Uh. I diverted my gaze and threw out my honest answer with a less-than-natural laugh, “Ha, no, you’re safe, you don’t have anything to worry about.”

“Worry about? Dude, I don’t care if you’re attracted to me. It’s not like it’d be a bad thing. I’m attracted to, like, lots of my close friends who are girls. I just wanted to know.”

Leave it to this guy to turn such an ill-advised question into one of the most profound offerings of grace I’ve ever experienced.

You see, at that point in my life I lived in terror of being attracted to anybody, especially friends. I mean, this can be a common anxiety of coming out, right? That not only will those closest to you distance themselves because they’re afraid that you might fall for them, but also that, well, you might seriously fall for them.

But more than that, I was still in the midst of a painful war with my body. While the rest of my hormonal peers were frolicking in their dopamine-addled pairing endeavors,** I was beginning to despair of ever feeling at peace because attraction, that bewildering spatial distortion that would sweep over me when I saw him, whoever he was, made me feel abusive and criminal.

It was, I think, the inevitable result of being told, and believing, the toxic lie that this particular uncontrollable, biological response was a willful act of sin. Like most underexposed evangelicals, I equated homosexual attractions with lust; they were one and the same – dire failures of holiness to be avoided at all cost.

I remember ranting to my accountability partner (poor soul greatly to be pitied) time after time about my crush(es), “I have no right to even look at him, much less tell you his name! It’s disgusting. I just feel like such a monster.”

This was during the “stable” phase of my college career. Good times.

But this is why that friend’s comment lingered so forcefully in my mind. By saying that it wouldn’t bother him if I was attracted to him because, duh, attraction happens to almost everybody and is totally not a big deal, he offered a distinct manifestation of grace that I had refused myself:

The grace of a common experience. 

The grace of not being a monster. 

The grace of being human, just like everybody else.

In the years since we sat together in that light-filled prayer chapel, tears in our eyes, rejoicing in the goodness of it all, I’ve found profound healing as I daily live into my humanity – a lifetime of aching otherness slowly finding its place in the humbly unfolding narrative of becoming whole.

And lust? I’ve finally begun to understand what it really is. By binding that willful vice up with the inescapable neurological occurrence of attraction, I not only turned my body into an enemy of holiness but I also crippled my ability to effectively fight against lust.

I used to conceive of it as little more than excessively strong attractions, something beyond my control, something that was ultimately about me and my “purity.”*** Wrong. Lust is about ignoring the dignity and inviolable humanity of another and turning them into an object for my own personal pleasure. Lust isn’t so terrible just because it makes it harder for me not to type Google searches of questionable character, though that’s a part of it; it’s so terrible because it makes it harder for me to treat every person as the absurdly beloved-by-God people that they are, because it turns them into a “thing” and turns me into a hypocrite.

But what is more, I’m no longer hopeless in this struggle. Back when I thought it was lustful to even notice another guy, the overwhelming impossibility of “purity” haunted me. I think I knew then, even if I couldn’t articulate it at the time, that to be free from lust as I defined it – as others had defined it for me – would require me to eviscerate a part of my humanity, to deaden myself to the very real desirability of others.

But now, rather than fear I will lose my humanity in the good fight against lust, I am thrilled to see it come more vibrantly into focus and fullness as I reclaim the true purposes of the struggle and realize what is actually at stake:

that I might see each person, whether or not they possess that indefinable breath-sapping spark, as beautiful, worthy of love, full of dignity, and to be served with joy.

I’ll be the first to say that this is easier said than done, but at least now I know that I’m not a lost cause, that I’m not some exceptionally broken screw-up with an entirely different set of rules. At least now I know, and at least usually believe, that my body is good and that there are much worse things I could do than realize someone has incredible eyes and great hair.

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* Y’all, being closeted was just so unhealthy. If you ever doubt that, read my journals from college. (But actually no don’t you dare read those.)

** … or something like that. I might have been a little bitter at the time.

*** I don’t really like how we use the word “purity” to almost exclusively reference sexuality, especially as it has historically contributed to the social marginalization of women. Biblically speaking, greed and gossip and whatever else are also fraught with “impurity.”

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A Short Prayer: The Middle East

Every week at my seminary there is a time during the chapel service for “prayers of the people.” I was asked to write a brief prayer for the unrest in the Middle East.

***

Loving Lord, God of the oppressed, today as a community we pray for the Middle East, and yet at the same time struggle to know how to pray, how to speak when confronted by the sheer enormity of pain being experienced by individuals, families, communities, and nations so many miles away. But even though we can only stammer and groan, empower us to draw near to you and cry out, full of the Spirit.

Merciful God, protect those who are vulnerable from the raging wildfire of the self-proclaimed Islamic State and their horrifying anger. May those who are fleeing find refuge, and those who are unable to flee be spared violence. We mourn the slaughter of Christians and the loss of worshiping communities all over Iraq as a shroud of silence falls where bells and holy liturgies have proclaimed your presence for 1800 years.

We pray, as we have been for many months, for Syrians, notably those now fleeing the border-town Kobane, whose lives have been torn apart in the ongoing civil war and ISIL encroachment.

We pray for the Gazan families trying to rebuild their lives in the midst of rubble and chaos, and ask especially that young Palestinian men would not be consumed by hatred at the unchecked injustices and thus turn to violence that will only perpetuate the cycles of destruction.

We pray for the Bedouins and African refugees, increasingly threatened by prejudiced land laws and xenophobic policies.

We pray for those in Israel, that they would not have to live in fear but also that their leaders would not use their fear as pretense to occupy and oppress others.

But we thank you, God, for those blessed examples of vibrant faith being displayed in the midst of the darkness, for moments of grace, compassion, and humanity.

For those of us from the United States, we ask forgiveness for the ways our nation has contributed to the plagues of instability and violence that characterize vast swaths of the Middle East, and we repent of our sinfully short memories that so quickly absolve us.

Lord, do not let our prayers be reduced to a holy anesthesia that numbs us to the suffering of others, that too easily satisfies our sense of responsibility, but may our prayers instead increase our capacity to embody a just expression of love and grace.

May our partial awareness of the suffering around the world not cause us to grow weary, but may we be inspired to serve those living here in Los Angeles with a greater passion and dedication.

And may we all look more like Christ as we pray this in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Amen

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