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Choking on Words – Reflections on the Tragedy at Pulse in Orlando

Before you read my small contribution to the multitudes speaking right now, please go read these things written by those within the communities that are hurting the most because of the tragedy in Orlando. As I come across others I will try to add them here.

Edited to Add 6/14/16

I am choking on words I don’t know how to say.

Words I can’t form, words can’t shape in a way that will be non-threatening and honest and peaceful and loving.

Torn between a desire to loudly proclaim that I support my LGBTQ, Latinx, and Muslim friends and neighbors and strangers…

…and a desire to not say the wrong thing.

Torn between a desire to shout for everyone to just stop with the rhetoric, stop with the blame, stop with the never-ending phobia of those who are other than you…

…and a desire to not add to the din of prescriptions and demands and simplifications

In a manner of hours everyone was suddenly an expert, suddenly had all the answers.

As if the truth of what led to this heartbreak could be discerned in moments from the spattering of “facts” coming from a newscaster’s mouth, spurred on by producers who see dollar signs and ratings.

As if all we needed to know could be found in the mixed messages of social media posts that trade in speculation and generalizations disguised as truth.

And before the bodies have even been moved from the spot where the bullets tore through them, nuggets of “wisdom” told in 140 characters or less profess to narrow the cause to one, to defend the prejudices of old, to proclaim sympathy for people who were hated in life.

Each proclamation seemingly shared in hopes that one spark of enlightenment, one message from a self-professed truth teller will change the world.

Or at least another’s mind.

We’ve been here too many times before. The messages remain the same but they come faster and harder with each announced body count. The well-practiced rhetoric paraded out on autopilot.

Thoughts and Prayers

I was right.

You were wrong.

If only…

See this is why…


We only become more entrenched, more divided with each massacre.

I have my opinions. I know what I think, what I blame for this never-ending violence and hate.

And right now I am choking on those words because I am choking on my own distrust, my own lack of love, my own small seed of hate that tries to find purchase when others disagree with me.

Because the anger that I feel boiling every time I see posts on Facebook that take a different view, that anger will not accomplish anything but adding to the already uncivil conversation.

So I am choking on words that I cannot form, wishing for words of love and hope and unity to come instead.

So I am paralyzed trying to be a good pastor and a good ally all at the same time.

So I am drowning in guilt for not finding my voice, for not being a vocal advocate for the causes I believe in, for giving into fear time and time again. Despite the fact that what I fear is a threat much smaller than a man with hatred carrying an assault weapon.

People I love carry much greater fear with them each day and face it with more courage and hope and love and joy that I have been able to muster. And for that I am ashamed.

Today I struggle to rise above the fear and hate and anger. I struggle with the impulse to blame and offer simple fixes. Nothing in this world is so simple these days. The layers to the crisis are piled one on top of the other and they must be pulled away. A process that will take too long, has already taken far too long.

I do not ask anyone to wait. There has been too much “not yet” and “someday” for people oppressed. I simply claim for myself the need to find a different tone, a different way, so bridges can be built instead of burnt. Those are the words I have not yet found but I keep seeking.

The one word that echoes in the voices of those I am looking towards today is love. So I stand as witness to others’ grief and I let the rhetoric go in favor of practicing (but still so far from perfecting) love.  For those with whom I agree and those with whom I disagree.

And despite choking on my words, I have found these. So many words and yet still they are inadequate. They are from a place of privilege. They are not prophetic or inspiring.  They are just words spewed out around the ones that remain lodged in my throat until they can be said with love.

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