As a black, gay, Christian, pastor I am constantly judged and attacked for not aligning with the status quo of the various groups that I identify with. Some black people don’t think that I should be a Christian because of the way Europeans in the past used Christianity to colonize Africa and enslave Africans in America and across the world. Not to mention the fact that organizations like the Klu Klux Klan call themselves Christians. This truth causes many black Americans to completely avoid organized religion, especially Christians. Moreover, some gay individuals do not believe that I should be a Christian because of how the Christian church has historically treated the LGBTQ community. Or, they do believe one can be a gay Christian, but because of their own issues with their sexual orientation think that I should not be a pastor because they still view being gay as a “sin.”
Additionally, there are also some Christians who do not believe it possible to be both gay and Christians because it is an “abomination” and these individuals certainly don’t think it possible or “right” to be a gay pastor.
Each and every day someone or something informs me that I am wrong, unworthy, or out of order in their eyes just for living in my truth. The Orlando massacre was a physical representation and manifestation of exactly how I feel being a black, queer, Christian, pastor in America everyday— I feel like a target. The heinous incident that took place in Orlando was and is hard to deal with. Since hearing of it I have not gone more than an hour without thinking about it in some form. I’ve prayed, cried, and thought about the Pulse club victims and survivors nonstop almost, yet I find consciously look for opportunities for hope and joy everyday. The rainbows that popped-up and continue to appear numerously around the world in solidarity with the Orlando victims and the LGBTQ community offer the joy and hope I long for!
One of Maya Angelou’s favorite songs was a 19th century Negro spiritual that proclaimed, “when it looked like the sun wasn’t gonna shine anymore— God put a rainbow in the cloud.” Rainbows are signs of hope. It doesn’t matter how bad the rain may be rainbows can form even after the most treacherous storm. So no matter how much I think about the pain and heartache the Orlando Masacre has caused the LGBTQ community as a whole, or me personally, I encourage myself to keep living in and walking in my truth because of the hope shining through every rainbow as a bright moment of hope both today and tomorrow.
The LGBTQ community has seen major victories in the past two decades. I’ve literally seen in my own short life the passing of Don’t ask, Don’t Tell and Marriage Equality. So no matter what happens to me personally or those around me I remain hopeful that progress will continue to be made; not just for me but for the countless individuals who reach out to me each and ever day looking for hope. Each day on social media I am contacted by young queer youth of color living in small rural communities in the south, or suburban communities in the Midwest and north who feel there is no hope for them. Many of these young people have never been outside of their community and feel lonely, depressed, and inadequate because of their same gender attraction, which makes them different. The liberation and freedom that they see from queer individuals on television and in movies seems so far removed from their own experience that they are constantly in a state of hopelessness. Whenever I’m contacted by such people I remind them of the story of Noah in the Bible. Noah built and ark and survived a great flood with his family and pairs of animals. God informed Noah that when he saw a rainbow after the flood it was a sign of hope that a future flood would never destroy him or his people. So anytime I see a rainbow flag I think of hope. I think of the possibility of beauty even in the middle of flood and storm.
Orlando was a huge storm, a dark cloud that still stays with everyone who has ever felt like a target. It is very scary to think that on any given day we can walk into any given place and meet such a tragic end. However, we must understand that even after the darkest night there is always a dawn. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. repeatedly proclaimed that “unearned suffering is redemptive.” To that end, the unearned suffering of those forty-nine beautiful souls that were gunned down redeems humanity and human consciousness. People who once spouted hateful rhetoric about the LGBTQ have spoken kindly, rethought their judgment, and some have even flown/posted rainbow flags as a sign of compassion and solidarity. Indeed, Orlando was a cloud— forty-nine clouds actually representing the dark and tragic side of human suffering; however, from these clouds rainbow flags, banners, posters, bridges, buildings, crosses, t-shirts, pinwheels, and countless others continue to spring forth reminding us of the hope that comes after tragedy. Yes Orlando was and is hard, it was a storm that many of use ate fighting every day to try to understand. The truth of the matter no gay American of this generation will ever be the same after the events of June 12, 2016, but no matter how bad it felt and still feels there are still rainbows in the clouds that inspire us all to hope in spite of the storm.