A Crisis of Faith-We’re Not Listening by Karen Hernandez


karen hernandezOrlando. Syria. Sandy Hook. Belgium. Somalia. Ethiopia. Venezuela. Paris.

After the shooting in Orlando I was numb. In fact, every time a mass shooting occurs now, I am numb. I think we all feel that way, but we all handle it in various ways. Within hours, there are blog posts, articles, and news pieces. People explode on social media with memes, arguments, and debates. There’s a whole lot of projection, a whole lot of persecution, and a mess of ideologies. Yet, what have I noted that is lacking? The ability to listen.

It seems Omar Mateen was gay. No one will ever know for sure. Lovers have come forward, information was found on his computer and phone that points to him being gay, yet, it is all speculation. Mateen didn’t just attack a gay nightclub because he was homophobic. It seems his inner demons ate away at his soul. The fact that he was Muslim on top of that, which, if you follow the doctrine, forbids homosexuality, obviously lent to his actions that fateful night.

Let’s say Mateen was gay. His faith dictated to him that he couldn’t be. He struggled. He prayed. He married two women. Then, he killed 49 people.

Yet, what people aren’t seeing is the real crisis here. We’re not listening.

In all the debate after the Orlando attack, I read many diatribes by Muslims who had no compassion for Mateen; who touted their theological prowess and quoted scripture. Almost as if to say that Mateen’s sexual orientation was more important than the death of 49 people. What I wanted to say is, instead of condemning him to hell, how about you reach out to others in your community who are also gay and lesbian. Because, they are there. And their faith is in crisis now. They know they are outcasts. They are fearful. They need understanding. They need compassion. As do all of those directly affected by Mateen’s actions.

We’re not listening.

And then there’s the Christian evangelicals who came out in full force after Orlando. Using biblical language such as “sodomites,” “heathens,” and rejoicing in the fact that Mateen and 49 others were dead, as they thought they should be.

We’re not listening.

Westboro Baptist Church was giddy at the prospect of illustrating their motto, God Hates Fags, by showing up to funerals of those killed. How, in anybody’s compassionate, right mind, would people do such a horrible thing, I don’t know. But, they did.

We’re not listening.

Since Orlando, my Muslim friends are afraid to go out. A few of my female friends have stopped veiling to feel “safer.” Atrocious accusations have once again surfaced and Islamophobia is now higher than ever.

We’re not listening.

You know what though? We’ve never listened. If we didn’t listen after Sandy Hook and Columbine, then why would I expect we listen now?

But worse, the whole world isn’t listening.

In the wider context, there’s Syria. Millions displaced, hundreds of thousands dead, children drowning and orphaned. And what do we do? We watch.

We’re not listening.

Did you know that about 19,000 children under the age of five die every day around the world due to improper nutrition, lack of medical care, and lacking the basic necessities to survive? 19,000. Mostly in developing nations, in non-descript villages, off the map. No one knows who they are, but their souls leave us every day. And we here in the “developed” world don’t miss a beat.

We’re not listening.

Somalia is in crisis right now. On the verge of another conflict. As is Ethiopia. People are dying there every day.

We’re not listening.

In Venezuela, people are eating garbage, because there’s not enough food.

We’re not listening.

In the United States, five children die every day at the hands of their parents. As do three women at the hands of their partners. Every day.

We’re not listening.

As I write this, thousands of Yazidi girls and young women are being held as sex slaves by Daesh. And, it’s believed that over 10,000 migrant children from Syria and the continent of Africa are unaccounted for and have been trafficked in the last 2 years.

We’re not listening.

Does anyone else see this crisis? Sometimes it feels that our planet is truly on the edge of disaster. Do I sound like a Negative-Nancy? Good. Because everything I have written is a reality. It’s the truth.

Yet, our crisis is not just about faith, although that has so much to do with it. Our crisis is about our lack of faith. Our lack of faith that each and every one of us can make change happen. We are the change makers. But, more, we have control over our own faith and how that is projected in the world. We have a choice to be intolerant and dogmatic, or, open and inclusive. Why do we then, for the most part, choose exclusivity?

Especially because, as I have shared before, we are all connected. And the violence we are experiencing is all inter-connected.

If we can’t stop killing our children and our partners, those we love the most, who we vow to take care of when we enter in to a relationship, and then that violence spreads in to our communities, over the nation, and across the seas – how, then, do we expect to stop a war on the other side of the planet?

If we let out children go to bed hungry in our own countries, then how do we expect children in other countries to not go hungry as well? If we allow mass shootings to continue, then how do we expect this culture of violence to not escalate in other parts of the world?

I always hear – We have our own problems – we need to fix those first. This may be true, but what we’re experiencing right now is not just about Americans, or Syrians, or the LGBTQ community. This is about all of us. Our crisis of faith is in that we, in all that makes us good and bad humans, refuse to acknowledge that we are all connected. That we are one species, regardless of race, gender, and religion. We are all responsible for each other.

I care that Al Shabab is killing people in Somalia. I care that there are homeless people who sleep on my door step every night. I care that girls are being raped and held hostage by Daesh. I care that the death of babies from a crazed, white male at Sandy Hook Elementary School didn’t change a thing. I care that there’s a food shortage in Venezuela. I care that religion creates and exacerbates intolerance and homophobia. I care that 19,000 beautiful souls under the age of five leave our planet every day. I care that Syria is still raging after five years. I care that people are still drowning in the Mediterranean every day. I care that peaceful Muslims, many whom are my friends, are targets of racism, rhetoric, and hate.

Christians hate Muslims. Muslims hate Zionists. Zionists hate terrorists. Terrorists hate women. Women hate men. Men hate women. Fundamentalists hate “fags.” Hate is a norm. Where can it go? What is the final outcome of all of our hate? Our children learn hate. And the cycle continues.

You see, the real crisis in faith is that we have lost faith in each other. We don’t trust each other. We hate each other. We kill each other. We have no compassion toward each other. Because if we did, we simply wouldn’t be here. We wouldn’t hate so. We wouldn’t allow such death and destruction – of our children and our fellow brothers and sisters, across the street and across the oceans. Most importantly – if we had faith in each other, we would listen. Yes, this is the real crisis of faith that we are experiencing in our world right now. I can only hope that we see. And more, that we listen. I believe our very existence depends on it.

Karen Leslie Hernandez is a Theologian and interfaith activist. With a focus in Christian-Muslim Understanding, as well as religious fundamentalism and extremism, Karen is the only theologian who is a Latina and a United Methodist, doing this type of theological work in the US. She has published with several media outlets including the Women’s United Nations Report Network, The Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue/Studies, the Interfaith Observer, and she is the only Christian to publish an ongoing Op-Ed Column with OnIslam out of Cairo, Egypt. She loves to teach and last year designed and taught an Interfaith Dialogue workshop with Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago. Karen currently lives in San Francisco, is consulting with the United Religions Initiative, is an Ambassador with Parliament of the World’s Religions, and she also does Domestic Violence Faith Advocacy work across the US.

 

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Categories: Belief, Bible, Christianity, Church Doctrine, Death, Domestic Violence, Evangelicalism, Gender, Human Rights, Islam, Justice, LGBTQ, Peacemaking, Poverty, Race and Ethnicity, Race and Religion, Rape, Sexual Violence, Sexuality, Violence, Violence Against Women, White Privilege

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13 replies

  1. Good Post! Your so right about not being good humans but its so good to find someone that thinks like you do

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  2. Very well written post, Karen.

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  3. In the list of atrocities, let us not forget the shooting of nine African American Christians at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 22, 2015. They embodied the kind of faith in others you are writing about in this post. They welcomed a troubled young white man who appeared at their door and invited him to pray with them. Opening our doors and borders and hearts is always a risk. Closing them to keep out the ones we perceive as other only gives the illusion of safety. We might as well take the risk of loving and, as you say, Karen, listening.

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  4. The United States is deeply divided. I don’t think it is a question of listening or not listening. But you are right that we are not together in our feelings. Here in Molivos, Lesbos, we are deeply divided too. I feel torn apart. I don’t know what the solution is, but I share your anguish.

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  5. Hi Karen, thanks, I saw this comment in the NY Times this morning — boggles the mind, those 30,000 gun deaths, and that’s just yearly —

    “Today, despite horrifyingly frequent mass shootings and yearly gun deaths topping 30,000, lawmakers, nearly all of them Republican, stand in lock-step formation against even modest gun-control efforts — like preventing people suspected of terrorist ties from easily buying firearms.”

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  6. A powerful post, Karen. Listening is so powerful, maybe that why we do so little of it.

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  7. Is anyone listening to anyone else? As I keep saying, all guns and bullets should be melted down. Maybe so should the Westboro church–no, let’s not kill any more people. Kindness is a hundred times more important than any theology. We need to take care of each other.

    Very thought-provoking and provocative post. Thanks for writing it.

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  8. I like your comment, Barbara. We do need to take care of each other. And also forgiveness is a great way of caring and giving.

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  9. Wow, powerful, and on point.

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  10. Unlike other animals, people are born blank slates. We get filled with the rules of our groups as we mature.

    I hate rules that say women are inferior, that our bodies must be mutilated, that we can be molested, groped, beaten, and raped if we don’t follow certain male-defined rules.

    Good people are pretending such rules don’t exist in the world. The media fail to cover incidents in Europe of mass molestation of women in Sweden and Germany, of young women being sexually mutilated in the name of these rules. Many politicians look the other way.

    People aren’t stupid. They know what’s going on, what’s being covered up. And the cover-up is causing many to back Brexit and people like Donald Trump – who, according to one recent poll is now ahead of Hillary Clinton.

    Where do these anti-women rules come from? Most indigenous groups don’t have them. Almost all come from one place: the big state religions.

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  11. We aren’t listening because to do so would make people’s lives intolerable…It horrifies me that I now feel numb after each shooting until I remember that as humans we can only stand so much pain. Violence and hatred have become a way of life. Where do we go from here?

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