As the world reacts to the terrorist attacks in Paris, Russia, and Beirut, the atmosphere feels heavy, dark, and scary. It's tempting to draw in on ourselves, to try to protect "our own." But we humans are always at our worst when we are acting out of fear.
We've heard governors declaring (despite the fact that it's not legal) that their states are closed to refugees. We've heard appeals to only allow "acceptable" refugees to come to the United States for safety. We've heard threats against all Muslims and there have been threats made to attack mosques. But this fear hasn't only sprung up in the wake of the latest terrorist attacks.
At its worst, fear of those we don't know or don't understand leads to death. This week, many faith communities around the United States are observing Transgender Day of Remembrance to memorialize the 25 (and likely more) transgender people who were murdered because of their gender identity in the United States this year. Two weeks ago Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance was defeated in a wave of lies about transgender people.
Right now in more than half the states in the U.S. I can be legally denied a lease, fired from my job, or turned away from a doctor's office based on my sexual orientation. Transgender people have even fewer protections in fewer states. Right now, around the world, people are in prison or are awaiting trial because of their same-sex sexual activity, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
The laws that support discrimination and persecution around the world and the absence of protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people are all too often being upheld by those who claim that their faith calls them to do so.
I'm tired of hearing religion in general and my Christian faith in particular used to promote hatred, suspicion and fear toward those who are different from me. This is not the message of religion. Religious traditions long for a world where justice and love prevail, whether it's described as God's realm on earth, the beloved community, or healing the world.
Faith doesn't teach us to be fearful and care only for those who are close to us. On the contrary we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, and reminded that our neighbor is not just the person who lives next door or who looks like us. Faith calls us to be courageous in our love. It calls us to be risk takers in speaking and acting for justice.
Now more than ever, congregations and people of faith need to raise a voice for love and justice. It may seem like a daunting task, but we must reclaim religion as a force of healing in a broken world. In the United States, we must speak out as people of faith in favor of laws and ordinances that protect all our neighbors from harassment and discrimination. You can find out more about how to do that here. Congregations can participate in a Transgender March of Resilience or a Transgender Day of Remembrance service.
We must also learn, pray, and act for justice for LGBTQ people around the world. Websites like Erasing 76 Crimes and Where Love is Illegal can help educate people of faith with facts and personal stories. Congregations can engage in spiritual practices and pray for those LGBTQ people who are persecuted and for those who misuse religion for violence.
Faith communities can also observe a Gilead Sabbath for global LGBTQ justice. The Gilead Sabbath Initiative provides a means for congregations to learn about the role of religion in sexual injustice, pray for an end to violence and discrimination, and seek responsible ways to pursue local and global LGBTQ justice.
As religion continues to be misused to support discrimination and violence toward LGBTQ people, people of faith have an obligation to show another way. We can reclaim religion as a powerful voice of love and justice for those who are experiencing persecution and discrimination. In these dark days, let us be courageous in our faith.