Where Were You on Bloody Sunday?

By: Helen Jin Kim
June 16, 2016

Where were you on Bloody Sunday, June 12, 2016? I was in Seoul, presenting my dissertation research at a forum held at Chung Dong First Methodist Church. The largest mass shooting in U.S. history occurred that day, from 2-5 AM EST or 3-6 PM KST, the exact time of our forum where we were discussing our moderator’s question:

“As a Christian body…how is the church to respond to society?” It is horrifying to think that while we were in dialogue, forty-nine, especially LGBTQ of color, were dying:

Stanley Almodovar III, Amanda Alvear, Oscar A Aracena-Montero, Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, Antonio Davon Brown, Darryl Ramon Burt II, Angel L. Candelario-Padro, Juan Chevez-Martinez, Luis Daniel Conde, Cory James Connell, Tevin Eugene Crosby, Deonka Deidra Drayton, Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, Leroy Valentin Fernandez, Mercedez Marisol Flores, Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, Juan Ramon Guerrero, Paul Terrell Henry, Frank Hernandez, Miguel Angel Honorato, Javier Jorge-Reyes, Jason Benjamin Josaphat, Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, Christopher Andrew Leinonen, Alejandro Barrios Martinez, Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, Kimberly Morris, Akyra Monet Murray, Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, Joel Rayon Paniagua, Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, Enrique L. Rios Jr., Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, Edward Sotomayor Jr., Shane Evan Tomlinson, Martin Benitez Torres, Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, Luis S. Vielma, Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, Jerald Arthur Wright.

Given the magnitude of the Orlando massacre, and the synchronicity of time between it and our forum in Seoul, I am compelled to see them as interconnected. Given that just the day before, 50,000 people celebrated Korea’s largest pride parade just outside of Chung Dong First Methodist, I see the parade as transnationally connected to Orlando’s massacre. Given that at the parade, Korean Christians actively protested with signs that said, “Homosexuality is a Sin, Return to Jesus” – alongside of queer Korean Christians who also held up signs that said, “Queer I Am, God Here I Am” – I am compelled to see the Korean church’s role, and its interconnected webs, among U.S. immigrants, the second generation, panethnic and multiracial Asian American churches, and beyond the church, in parachurches and missionary organizations, as intimately connected to the gun violence in Orlando.

As a Christian body, how is the church to respond to society?

Seoul is a center for evangelical missionary work, and while not all of the churches in Seoul are devoted to evangelical exclusivism, homosexuality is commonly denounced as a “sin,” and used as a barometer for measuring Christian orthodoxy and piety. Within a majority of Korean American and Asian American Christian communities, homophobia is part of the making of the community as heterosexual marriage is uplifted as the standard, and queer Christians rendered invisible, counseled to become straight or dismissed from leadership. Thus, many of my trans and gay Korean and Asian American, especially Christian, friends and family members are closeted – no, caved up, for survival.

Allies are also often closeted and caved up. In college, I recall the resistance I faced in my Christian community when I voiced my excitement in taking the first Queer Studies course at Stanford. Part of my religious upbringing was attending a church where lesbian couples and transgendered Christians were welcomed. When I met with our university chaplain to talk about her own journey as a queer woman, I later faced considerable skepticism from my Christian community about whether I was fit to be a leader. When you love God and you feel called to do the work, this hurts and it’s scary.

Over the years, I’ve learned to be very careful about who I am “out” to as an ally. But I’m tired of this song and dance. I’m tired of being a closeted Christian ally – the kind who carefully selects who to be “out” to and not to. I’ve learned it is incredibly costly, and I repent, and I lament. I’m tired of knowing that some of my beloved friends and family are closeted – no, caved up, as gay, lesbian, bi, trans, queer, questioning – and that there are too few spaces for them to freely be themselves, to ask the hard questions, and worship a God who loves them. I’m tired of this violence.

I know I am not alone – because, I’ve talked to so many of you.

So, this is a call, especially to those who identify as Korean Christian, Korean American Christian or Asian American Christian, or some derivative of these categories; and, to white, black, Latinx and Native Americans who attend churches, parachurches or missionary communities where such folks are your leaders or members – to come out of our ally, queer or something-in-between caves. To publicly come out in solidarity with those who died in Orlando. Not just to decry the massacre, but also to transform our religious communities, which are often the first sites of LGBTQ violence.

I believe this includes, but is not limited to, transformation in how we counsel people in their dating and sexual lives; what it means to do family ministry; how we read the tougher Bible passages. I believe we are called to preach with queer lives in mind; give queer people full authority in religious leadership; ask queer folks what they want in Christian community. I believe we are to partner with those who have long done this work, and in light of Orlando, to engage politicians to end gun violence that especially harms the margins. We’re not going to immediately agree, and our work will look different from the liberal white mainstream, but there’s something powerful about the stickiness of our relational ties.

What would it look like to “come out” as a community?

Jesus once told a dead man: “Lazarus, come out!” Out of the tombs of Orlando, we are called to “come out.” When Lazarus came out of his tomb, it foreshadowed the resurrection of Jesus, the one who would have the power to conquer death. Do we believe that death is not the final answer? That, the Orlando massacre does not have the final say? If so, let’s join in God’s work: No more Bloody Sundays for any of God’s children. Let’s start by preaching, and ensuring this gets preached, from the pulpit this Sunday.

Photo by Exile on Ontario St

Tags: Thinking Out Loud

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