Inside Out

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In the Name of God

By Michele McCormick
By Michele McCormick

“In the name of God,” he said, as the CNN Sunday morning news anchor proclaimed 50 people dead.

I was in the midst of ironing my clothes while getting ready for the 25th anniversary celebration of Irvine United Congregational Church’s decision to become Orange County’s first open and affirming church. Affirming churches move through a formal educational and decision-making process to become intentionally welcoming to those who identify as gay or transgender. This was to be a morning of joyful remembrance with a beloved faith community.

But in another Orange County, on another coast, on this same morning, during the intersection of gay pride and a religious holy month, a fundamentalist radicalized terrorist slaughtered unsuspecting patrons at Pulse, a gay nightclub where young people danced to reggae on Latin night. I dropped my hot iron. While it burned straight through my Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes, I sat down and wept in response to surreal images revealing the deadliest mass murder in U.S. history.

Not only school children or unsuspecting families enjoying a movie or a marathon, but now gays have become the target of yet another mass shooting by an unstable, homophobic young man who much too easily purchased automatic assault weapons only two days prior. Evidently, his jihadist terrorist leanings were imported, but his homophobia was homegrown, tied to fundamentalist religious beliefs. Terror works to instill fear in the heart of a nation. And, like African Americans, who while recalling stories of so many lynchings and church burnings, continue to live with entrenched racism, gays also carry a shared archetypal memory of assaults on their community. June 1969 marked the beginning of the gay rights movement when police stormed the Stonewall Inn nightclub in New York City. Even now, in mid-western and southern states a palpable fear persists.

In more progressive towns like Laguna Beach, while the fear may be repressed, it is never forgotten. It reverberates through generations. My gay father felt it in 1950’s Texas as do I more than 60 years later. It’s a deep down rumbling feeling like Californians experience while waiting for the next big one; an awareness that at any moment, given one’s non-conforming sexual or gender orientation, a hate crime or some form of institutionalized discrimination is possible. The national news of late has been filled with bathroom rhetoric, instilling anxiety in both transgender and cisgender school children and their parents. And another form of psychological terrorism happens in each new election year cycle when LGBTQ folks become whipping posts for party platforms. Conservative political and fundamentalist religious ideology continue to fuel beliefs which lead to discrimination and hate crimes.

When a church or a pastor officially welcomes LGBTQ folks it is a courageous choice often met with ostracism by more conservative believers. Laguna Beach is a town with many churches, but only four of those are affirming congregations: Neighborhood Congregational, St. Mary’s Episcopal, Unitarian Universalist, and The United Methodist Church. Typically, based on a literal interpretation of scripture, evangelical Christian churches and schools do not affirm LGBTQ folks. In fact, several evangelical, Protestant churches in Orange County have withdrawn from their denominations in the last decade to join off-the-grid, extremely fundamentalist denominations based in African countries like Uganda.

Thus, bars and beaches are the new church for gays. Palm Springs the latest pilgrimage point. It is not surprising that Laguna’s LGBTQ community gathered Sunday night at, Main Street, the town’s only remaining gay bar for a candle light vigil organized by Laguna residents and Human Rights Campaign leaders Diana Navarre and Jeff Brumett. Straight allies also turned out in force: Laguna Mayor Steve Dicterow; two supportive on-duty Laguna Beach police officers; Jason Feddy, a member of Laguna’s Jewish and inter-faith community; and Rabbi Peter Levi of the Anti-Defamation League, who spoke to those gathered in mourning. It was a sacred moment full of love and light.

On the second worst day in the history of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, I prayed in a church and a bar in a country where whether straight or gay, adult or child, fundamentalist, progressive or agnostic, Republican, Democrat, or Green, any of us might be taken down while running a marathon, enjoying the arts, learning in school, singing in worship or simply dancing.

In the name of God, in the pursuit of love, unity and justice how then might we respond to such endemic violence?

Michele McCormick is a practicing psychologist, writer and Laguna Beach resident who writes about her adopted hometown with a psychological twist and a dose of inspiration. She can be reached at [email protected]

 

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15 COMMENTS

  1. The irony (ironing) of the truth is in representing the living, promoting love and enlightenment and caring for others takes courage. The same type of courage it takes to walk down a dark empty alley alone at night. Some people embrace this fear with knowledge and belief in all things good, and are able to take the first step placing one foot in front of the other to make it to the other end.
    Others are swallowed up by this fear and lash out unable to move or think reasonably and out of fear and ignorance embrace weapons or other false substances that they use to substitute courage and love.
    Mental health and welfare for our community should be first and foremost, it starts at home, and in our schools, our work place, and social establishments.
    We are not animals or to say we have the ability to communicate to one another to the point for asking for help or recognizing when individuals need help. There should never be barriers or borders within or without any culture or group of people that can not reach out and assist to help others in trying times and difficulties in coping with issues. In this sense there is no need for an outside control to monitor our behavior as animals sometimes need in their lack of ability to seek help or services for problems.
    In times of economic distress when our governmental systems may fail to provide for those individuals that are not able to meet the requirements for, or are not represented sufficiently . It is then the private sector of social groups and citizenry responsibility to themselves and their communities to recognize the need for help these individuals are displaying.
    Education and knowledge can eradicate ignorance and fear to help alleviate further suffering.

  2. Thank you Dr M. Appreciate this timely article that encourages us rise above sectarian political or religious ideology to embrace love and unity as well as necessary and clear action to confront the growing violence in our country, at home, and around the world.

  3. Thanks Jennifer. Means a lot coming from a writer such as yourself. Let’s not give up. Maybe there is a season for everything… a time to work and a time to grieve and a time to rest and then to work again. Yes?

  4. Great article Michelle, this tragic event brings up so many emotions… fear, anger, frustration, sadness.. I ask myself why?, why do people do this, it’s more than just access to guns, or fears of others beliefs/choices/differences. We as a society need to stop putting up walls and embrace our sameness as well as our differences, isn’t that what America was built on?

  5. We must hold our politicians responsible for their continued enthrall meant to the gun industry if Americans are to see safety increase. We must also stand up for the civil rights of all Americans, no longer turning away from the continued realities of hate, ignorance, and prejudice wherever we see them.

  6. More than a dollop of inspiration to be found within the silent spaces of this highly intuitive writer’s work. Would love to see more from Michele McCormick!

  7. Thank you so much for writing this article. It’s helpful to know there are LGBTQ-affirming churches that I can suggest to my friends of faith. And that church leaders, who say things like “love the sinner, hate the sin,” are not stuck, bound to repeat that dogma in theIr sermons and homilies. Instead, clergy can look into reforming their church, so LGBTQ children within their congregation do not have to grow-up hearing and seeing LGBTQ congregants treated as less than any other church member. That kind of dogma and exclusion of LGBTQ members from certain rituals and rites and leadership roles affords those congregants no agency. A child growing up in such a church may likely repress their sexuality. Who wants to be treated as less than? When the child is old enough to be on their own, they will probably never come back to their family church, unless it were to reform itself. What a talent drain. And how difficult to grow-up in such a toxic environment. It’s a lose/lose for those kinds of churches. So while it sounds like the process of becoming a LGBTQ-affirming church is rigorous, seems well with it, so all members are truly treated with respect, dignity and love.

  8. Thank you!

    LGBT Leaders Warn of Looming Gay Rights Backlash | TIME
    Time Magazine › gay-rights-marriage-ba…
    Mobile-friendly – Nov 20, 2015 – Despite win on marriage, gay rights at risk and LGBT leaders brace for political retribution from conservatives. … LGBT leaders are warning that a backlash against gay rights is coming.

  9. Thank you for such thoughtful reflections and convictions expressed here in your comments. Love wins.

  10. Thank you so much for sharing Michele, for giving a voice to hope after yet another “mass shooting”. This gun-slaughter which has become routine in our country, is a symptom of the level to which our leadership, as such, has been corrupted. You would think that after Columbine and Sandy Hook there would be the political will to control weapons of mass destruction. An AR-15 was designed to kill many in a short amount of time. It is not for hunting or target shooting. It is clear to me that the majority, align with the Founders of our nation in the belief that we all have a right to Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness. How can we have those things when ANYONE, in a state of mental anguish, can slaughter so many so quickly? When this happens at the mall, movie theater, church, classrooms, political rallies… how can any of us not wonder “Will I be next?”…will someone I Love… be slaughtered by the next Angry-Male-Gun-Fetishist?? Australia seemed to deal with it quickly- they enacted shensible gun-control laws. It worked! Our response, as a people who will not tolerate this behavior, MUST start with sensible GUN-CONTROL Laws! It can’t end there because we must stop glorifying gun violence in the media, for entertainment. We need to provide better access to effective mental-health care. None of these changes can go forward with a Congress bought off by the NRA & gun lobbyists. This gun-slaughter is a MALE problem unique to our country WE CAN CHANGE IT!

  11. I know how you feel. Wish you hadn’t burned a hole in your dress! First Unitarian Church here in Dallas was one of the first openly accepting & affirming congregations for the LGBT community. But it will take more than faith, holding hands and prayer to stop the gun-slaughter in our country. It is a symptom of a serious societal illness in the vital organs of our country. We must STOP the promotion of violence as entertainment in our media & video games. We must STOP the unlimited bribery of our politicians by corporations that, like a cancer, is strangling our democratic process. We must provide adequate & effective medical care to the mentally ill & emotionally disturbed. We must OUTLAW the use of mass media for propaganda AND we must enact strict gun-control law as has been so successful in Australia and other developed countries. This carnage of gun-slaughter is an AMERICAN MALE issue. Women don’t do this and no other country has the disease on a scale anywhere close to that of the U.S.A…. Averaging 22 gun-deaths / day. We ARE appalled. The MAJORITY believes that weapons of mass destruction should not belong in the hands of individual citizens. They ARE NOT for hunting. They ARE NOT for target shooting sports. The sale of assault rifles WERE BANNED under the BUSH Administration and that restriction should have remained. The FIRST & MOST EFFECTIVE step in halting this disease IS reasonable GUN CONTTOL! Immediate action is required. The “Sit-in” on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives last week was long overdue- give those Congress members your FULL SUPPORT. This illness IS TREATABLE and WE can get it done!??

  12. Thank you Ms. McCormick for this article. It is heartbroken. We must continue to share a message of love. We must advocate, be the voice and Continue to prayer for the families, our country and our world. One senseless shooting is too many!
    Love conquers all!

    Guerline

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