The outpouring of support for LGBTQ people after the massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando last weekend has taken many forms.
Earlier this week in Louisville, a group of religious leaders of different faiths delivered flowers to LGBTQ bars in the city, visiting with patrons and talking through what happened in Orlando.
One of them was the Rev. Kevin Cosby of St. Stephen Baptist Church in West Louisville. In this week’s commentary, he talks about why he went.
The Apostle Paul once uttered a prayer that I wish all believers would pray. He prayed in Ephesians 3 that God would help all people comprehend “the width of God’s love.” By “width,” Paul is referring to the inclusive and all-embracing nature of God’s love. An unconditional love that warmly receives all people, regardless of who they are or how society defines them.
Paul’s prayer can best be appreciated when upheld to the tendency of religious people to narrow the broad scope of God’s love and to exclude some from God’s wide open circle of love that is open to receive everyone.
Today we can celebrate the fact that most Christians have grown beyond belief in a narrow, provincial, snobbish God who embraces only certain nations, races and denominations. However, we have yet to extend that comprehension of the wideness of God’s love to those in the LBGTQ community.
A recent statistic indicates that 86 percent of all LBGTQ people were raised in church. That is 11 points above the national average. However, today many in the LBGTQ community have abandoned the church, largely because the church has abandoned them.
Organized religion, in most denominations, has confined the love of God to heterosexuals, while simultaneously making gay and lesbian people the object of God’s wrath and scorn. This narrow view of God has, to quote the Reverend Maurice Blanchard, “created the homophobia our world struggles with today.” In addition, this narrow perception of God has, in the words of Dr. Delmon Coates, “provided the theological ammunition that has inspired attacks against the LGBTQ community.”
That is why on Monday, I joined four other Christian pastors and a devout Muslim activist, to bring flowers to our gay brothers and sisters at four gay bars here in Louisville. What a sight it must have been — a black pastor from West Louisville, with black nationalist leanings, going into a gay bar of white patrons to bring flowers to vulnerable and anxious people.
The response I received was overwhelming. One lesbian hugged me and, as we wept together, she shared that this was one of the nicest things she had ever experienced in her life.
Extending love, compassion and empathy across barriers is not an everyday occurrence. But what would happen if we worked hard as a community to make it something we see and do every day. It is my hope and prayer that Christians and people of good will throughout our community will be intentional and demonstrate the width and breadth of God’s love through acts of love, kindness and acceptance toward LGBTQ brothers and sisters.
Rev. Kevin Cosby is senior pastor of St. Stephen Baptist Church, Louisville’s biggest black church, and president of Simmons College.
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