Hearing and Being Heard: A Pastoral Response to Orlando


Post Author: Jessica Harren

After this article was slated for publication, the world received news of terrorist attacks in an airport in Istanbul, Turkey, also in central Baghad, Iraq, and near mosques in two cities in Saudi Arabia, north of Baghdad, and in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Then last week saw more deaths in U.S. cities at the hands of police. May God call us to celebrate life in all places, to name and denounce violence against all people, and to listen with open hearts to those who are suffering.

This article was also published in The Homer Horizon in Homer Glen, IL.  You can find the article here.


Earbuds

Listen

The Orlando shootings are not about me. Let’s start with that. I’m white, heterosexual (attracted to people of the opposite gender), and cisgendered (my internal gender identity matches the physical traits I was born with).

My privilege has socialized me to think that the news is always about me – I believe I can make the first comments, know something about it before anyone else, and choose to disregard it as rubbish when it doesn’t fit my worldview. Even when I actually know and experience nothing about it, my place in society gives me the privilege to believe that I am allowed to be the first to know something about the things that happen in our incredibly diverse world. Especially, my privilege assures me to know that I will be heard.

I confess this: being heard has been more important in my life than hearing. I do not listen enough.

Today, the Monday after the shootings, I realize how much I need to listen. I am yearning for the stories written by people in the communities most affected. I am looking for articles written by Latinx (a gender-neutral word form of Latino/Latina) people, posts generated from people who identify within the LGBTQIA community, blogs composed by Muslims who remind us that their religion is indeed about love, not hate. We need to hear that hatred within Islam is a perversion of Islam.

In the same way, hatred is a perversion of Christianity. God is about love. 

I have heard several times in the last 24 hours that this is not about me – it is about the people who have lost their lives and those most affected. It is about several communities of people who now internally carry more fear every day because the possibility of being shot, bullied, harassed, or assaulted has gotten a whole lot closer to home. It is about systemic problems of racism, sexism, homophobia, and Islamophobia that force us to create divisions among us and to ignore our common humanity.

Regardless of your political or religious beliefs on the rightness or wrongness of so many things polarizing this country, please take some time to set that aside so you can pray or think about the people who lost their lives, and their families. I hope that most of us can put ourselves in the shoes of those people whose painful stories will not be said, much less heard.

The reality is that I help with this violence. If I don’t listen, I can’t use my privilege to speak on behalf of people with less privilege. Every time I see someone harassing a Muslim person, and I don’t speak up against it, I condone bullying people of other faiths. Every time I use words about God and the Bible that cause others a kind of pain that threatens their lives, I condone a hatred that infects all of society. Every time I don’t stand up for a woman who is being abused by her husband, I condone domestic violence.

Every time I use my privilege, or neglect to use it, I am part of the problem.

This is not about me, but I can help. I can start listening. I can start learning about how the world looks to others. I can start finding out how the things I say, or don’t say, affect the lives of other people. Because we’re in this together. And God has our back to create more love in the world.

I have hope, and that is not about me. It is about God and all of us working together for love.


Jessica A. Harren is currently an interim pastor at Cross of Glory Lutheran Church, in Homer Glen, IL.  Jessica received her M.A. in community counseling from Loyola University Chicago in 2003, and her M.Div. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago in 2010.  She works to be anti-discrimination and anti-bias in her life, and is so thankful Jesus promises forgiveness when she fails miserably.


Image by: Justin See
Used with permission
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