However, as a movement we have no idea how to talk about the diversity of sexuality and gender identity, so we just pretend such things don’t exist. Our ‘positional statement’ about homosexuality was taken down several years ago for review, and we’ve given up waiting for a new one. If we ignore it for long enough, maybe it will go away.
A lot has been said about the recent shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Amongst all of the opinion pieces and inevitable discussion about gun control in the US, the Salvation Army also made an official statement. It came in the form of a video from our world leader, General André Cox. Here’s a link to the video. (Sorry, I couldn’t get the video to embed properly!)
The General seems to be very careful not to mention one of the most obvious things about this emergency. If a church had been shot up, or a mosque for that matter, there would be a comment about how tragic it is that the people killed were killed, not for anything they’d done, but the mere act of worshipping their god in the way they see fit. A right we all take for granted… and so on.
If the gunman had shot a hundred people at a footy match, the General’s speech would’ve had a comment about how tragic it is that these people were killed, not for anything they’d done, but for the innocent act of spending an afternoon watching sport. It’s something we all routinely do… yada yada.
This is how these sorts of speeches go. The whole point is to describe the senselessness of the act and how any of us can be caught up as the victims of seemingly random acts of violence. This speech does that, but not really.
The difference here is that the group of people targetted is a group that the Army would prefer didn’t exist. We can cope with footy fans. Many of us are footy fans. Or tennis fans. Or whatever. We feel especially concerned when it’s people worshipping who are targetted, even if they worship in a way completely at odds with our own faith and practice. Most of the people in this group go to worship on a weekly basis, and we empathise with those who are killed for doing so.
This means we don’t know how to empathise when a gay club gets shot up, even though—and this is really important when the General starts to talk about them: they are in our midst. They are Salvationists. They are Christians. When the General talks about us he’s also talking about Salvationists who dance in gay clubs because, generally speaking, they’re one of the few places you can go and not be judged or assaulted for your gender or sexuality. Some of us are also them.
The fact that the General can’t bring himself to acknowledge the LGBTQ community apart from a vague reference to ‘cultural difference’ or ‘different beliefs’ (whatever the blazes that’s supposed to mean) speaks volumes. It is the very act of shunning which the General takes pains to tell us not to commit.
We need to learn how to talk about such things. We also need to learn that, in the face of wrong and injustice, the only time silence is appropriate is when we’re listening to the cries of the victims.