Psalm 35:1-3 (NKJV)
“Plead my cause, O Lord, with those who strive with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for my help. Also draw out the spear, and stop those who pursue me. Say to my soul, ‘I am your salvation.'”
The Psalms, as I read them, come to me as very poetic, lyrical prayers and pleadings to God. Often written by David to ask God for rescue from calamity or despair or as prayers of thanksgiving for rescue and justice served.
For many LGBT people, we can identify to a great extent to most of these Pslams in the context that so often we have been subjected to persecution, violence, hatred, discrimination, and countless injustices. We are even finding ourselves being victimized by zealous, ultra-conservative religious groups. We are often the victims of religious-fueled hatred and bigotry and are left wondering if God truly loves us or cares about our plight, if at all. We plead to God for mercy, yet there are some who would gladly have us beaten or even killed in the name of God and Jesus!
Many LGBT people have a healthy and justified fear or religious communities– especially in light of religious communities with known track records of inciting homophobia and transphobia and violence and hate crimes against the LGBT community. It is difficult at best for any LGBT persons to trust in God or engage in spirituality or faith discovery when it appears as though the religious community has chosen to reject and condemn the LGBT community for who they are and how they live and who they choose to love.
Open and Affirming churches and temples and mosques do exist and their communities are growing– even as it seems LGBT backlash is rising under a new wave of radical conservative sentiments under the likes of the Trump-Pence administration, for example. There is positive scholarship and progressive movements stepping up to question, challenge, and enlighten the religious community about what it is our Scriptures are actually saying, from their historical and linguistic roots, about issues related to sexuality and gender. There is a movement to educate congregations about what it truly means to love thy neighbor and to appreciate the diversity of God’s creation. There are efforts being made to encourage science and faith in constructive dialogues for the promotion of human rights and equality.
There has to be a concerted and collaborative effort on all our parts to combat this sense of hopelessness affecting the LGBT community. The cause for equality and respect needs a boost of confidence and needs the support of enlightened faith-based communities and churches to get on-board for letting all LGBT persons know they are loved, accepted, and acknowledged, and welcome.
The Pslams, in this day and age, feel more and more like a reflection of the struggles the LGBT community are facing today. And I am sure the struggles of African American youth, Muslims around the world, and refugees and minorities and the disabled can find their struggles and hardships reflected in the Psalms as well– and everyone who feels burdened by these persecutions and violence and hatred or discrimination and injustice must be asking God, why them– and when will God hear their pleas and help them?
God may be asking in return, “When will I be trusted? When will you have faith in me and pray to me?”
And God may also be asking, “When have I ever left you?”
It may have taken David a hundred or more Pslams for him to feel connected to God or feel like God was on his side in his struggles. For the LGBT community, it may take two hundred or three hundred Psalms and prayers for us to feel a trust with God. And maybe we are not surprised that so many people are leaving organized religion and fleeing from their churches. Many do not see the church as the welcoming place it could be or should be. Many are no longer seeing the kind and loving God society needs to see– but rather they are seeing pastors and preachers profiting off of hate-filled rhetoric preached to a gullible and impressionable flock seeking a scapegoat for all their problems and failures and broken dreams.
People are seeing too much politicization in their religion. The line separating church and state are blurred or sometimes totally erased. People are beginning to see the constant push to impose only a very specific, conservative and rigid interpretation of religious doctrine as public policy. Religion has become less and less about God and the understanding of Holy Scriptures and more and more about controlling and defining social norms. The LGBT community finds itself in the middle of the conflict. The crosshairs are centered directly upon us.
Psalm 43:1-2 (NKJV)
“Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; oh deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man! For you are the God of my strength; why do You cast me off? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
It often feels like we are waiting to be restored, like Job had to endure his tests and trials and problems and prove his faithfulness before he could be restored and vindicated. It feels like our trust in God is tested. It feels like we have to prove that we are just as capable of having faith as anyone else. At times, I have considered that the LGBT community has become the new chosen people– who must take it upon themselves to teach others the meaning of love, compassion, kindness, acceptance, respect, and reverence for all God’s creations. I often feel like we have to be the messengers now and take on the mission of educating and raising awareness to the injustices and inequalities impacting the LGBT community and other marginalized populations.
I feel we have to be not just our own advocates but advocates for others and take on that label of advocate to prove the point that we can do God’s work as well as anyone else and we will not be silenced by religious ignorance or churches as hate groups. We will not be silent or complacent to hate crime or bigotry or false religion used as justification for violence.
It may feel like we have to prove ourselves to God as well… and I think in many ways, the whole of humanity, not just the LGBT community, needs to prove something to God. Don’t we want to prove that the sacrifice of Jesus and countless other martyrs were not in vain? That there is still something of value in humanity? That there is some redeeming quality in humanity? Today we may feel left out and cast off… but remember God put us here… we are all created in His image. God gave us hearts, minds, souls, skills, talents, and countless gifts. He knows what is in our hearts. These times may be a testing ground for us– but perhaps it is not really us that is being tested… but rather the haters being judged against our example of what love and compassion is?