Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. frequently reminded us that though the moral arc of the universe is long, it “bends towards justice.” I do not doubt that this is true, but this arc doesn’t bend on its own, as if part of some naturally occurring process. It only bends in the direction that we choose to bend it. This requires thoughtful, constant action over the course of centuries and millennia.
Recently, we saw opposing sides exerting force on this arc. On the side of injustice was the gunman who opened fire Club Q in Colorado Springs, murdering five people and injuring 17, forever impacting all who were present. His actions also continue the ongoing destructive marginalization and targeting of LGBTQ people. This is the evil of homophobia, and we must refuse to become numb to it.
Opposing this evil, we witnessed an act of justice when the Senate voted to advance legislation that would protect same-sex marriages. Alaska Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan should both be commended for their vote to protect the God-given freedom of love. I look forward to them both continuing their courage when it comes to a final vote. This would be a strong push that bends the moral arc of the universe ever closer to justice.
And which side of this arc are churches on? Churches historically have been a major cause of homophobia. Based in misreadings of scripture and the elevation of tradition over compassion, church-based homophobia has led to generations of emotional abuse, increased suicide rates amongst LGBTQ youth, and many other kinds of harm. Blood would not have been spilled at Club Q if churches in the U.S. had not spent decades ostracizing and demonizing gay people. Because of this, we churches bear the responsibility of not only ending homophobic rhetoric and actions, but of actively creating a society in which LGBTQ people are loved, supported and protected.
Unfortunately, the faith community in the U.S. is as divided as the politics; we have churches pushing on the arc from both directions. But we should take heart: According to a Pew Research poll in 2015, the majority of U.S. Christians say homosexuality should be accepted, rather than discouraged, by society. This number, unthinkable decades ago, grows steadily every year as more and more churches accept God’s blessed call to be a place of safety, sanctuary, and love for all of God’s children, of every sexual orientation and gender expression.
On one side, the evil of homophobia took up arms and opened fire on love. On the other side, legislators took a step toward equality and justice. On which side of the arc will you and your church choose to stand?
Rev. Matt Schultz, an Anchorage pastor, is on the steering committee for Christians for Equality.
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