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A Mass Shooting and Spiritual Abuse

Yesterday, the alternate reading for the lectionary was Psalm 5:1-8:

Psalm 5:1-8
5:1 Give ear to my words, O LORD; give heed to my sighing.
5:2 Listen to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you I pray.
5:3 O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.
5:4 For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil will not sojourn with you.
5:5 The boastful will not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.
5:6 You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.
5:7 But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house, I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you.
5:8 Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.

I was drawn to preach this psalm this week even though it asked me to wrestle with the misinterpretation of an Old Testament God who is full of wrath and encounter an Almighty God who does not delight in wickedness and hates all evildoers. Even as I preached this psalm and reflected on the mass shooting in Orlando, I knew what was going to happen. I grew up in a community of faith that turned passages of scripture into justification for theological dogma regardless of their historical or literary contexts. This community of faith did the same with current events. Nothing would shake the dogmatic teachings they believed in, not even death, not even 50 deaths, not even the deadliest mass shooting in American history. I knew even as I preached that there would be people who would take to social media and spread their message fueled with spiritual abuse to anyone who would hear it, disregarding the lives lost and the families mourning. I knew there would be people who claimed that those who had been murdered somehow deserved it because of their sexual orientation.

This is spiritual abuse.

Clinging so tightly to dogma that it prevents compassion, grief, and love in the midst of death does nothing to spread God’s love and bring the kingdom of God here on earth. Instead it excuses us from loving our neighbor or welcoming those who have been systematically discriminated against and numbs our hearts and souls to the point of reducing human life to a lesson to be learned. This kind of biblical interpretation frees the believer from any action and encourage hate-filled judgement recited like a trained parrot.

But even in the midst of this spiritual abuse that tries to claim that these lives lost were worth nothing, there are voices rising up, voices full of creativity and love, full of the resurrected Christ that offer new life. May I be one of those voices that proclaims loudly that those 50 people held the divine breath within them as a creation of Creator God. May I continue to wrestle with my own dustiness that threatens to convince me that this life is too fleeting to offer any real change or hope to the world acknowledging the divine breath within my own soul that promises transformation if I but breathe deeply.

Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.