Republished with permission from John Pavlovitz.
Lauri Carleton was an LGBTQ ally.
Lauri Carleton flew a rainbow flag.
Lauri Carleton is dead because of it.
The 66-year old wife and mother of nine children was murdered outside her Southern California clothing store by a man who tore town her flag and shot her to death when she protested. As senseless and shocking as the assassination of Lauri Carleton is, it is not a surprise. It is the rotten, putrid fruit of MAGA America and all it stands for and aspires to.
Violence targeting the LGBTQ community and those who support them is not a random aberration, it is the logical progression.
When you continually label queer people as predators, when you repeatedly accuse teachers of being groomers, when you declare drag shows and gay clubs as societal threats, when you intentionally target transgender children and their parents, when you perpetually traffic in irresponsible and dangerous rhetoric designed to generate irrational fear of LGBTQ people—hate crimes are guaranteed.
The hollow culture wars that Christian Conservatives have spent the past few decades going all-in on have actual human costs. They are not ideological expressions untethered from life on the ground. They are not just tweets and slogans and disconnected pulpit diatribes devoid of consequences. They are not merely reckless words and irresponsible assassinations of character against people for their gender identity and sexual orientation.
They may begin as those things, but eventually they become young men carrying high-powered weapons of rapid carnage into places of refuge and joy, who indiscriminately fire into strangers because they have so dehumanized them as to see them as expendable and necessary collateral damage of a righteous holy war.
The tweets and slogans and diatribes eventually become verbal assaults and acts of vandalism and showers of bullets quickly tearing through the flesh of strangers. They become gaping wounds too severe and numerous to withstand.
Lauri Carleton is the victim of two vicious hate crimes: of the person pulling the trigger and of those who made doing so for that person so easy.
There is no mystery here to be solved, no complex code to uncover, no hidden shooter motive we need to follow down endless rabbit trails to discern.
This is simple cause-and-affect.
It is the grotesque monster Republicans have made because they have lacked creative ideas or noble impulses or any desire to lead responsible for the common good.
By continually chasing the sensational, by relentlessly ratcheting up their rhetoric, by dragging their base to an ever-deepening bottom, and by using LGBTQ people as faceless, nameless political chips—they are nurturing the kind of wasteful violence that visited Lauri Carleton.
The Republican Party and their voting base, and the conservative Christian movement that leverages its pulpits for them will continue to pretend they are oblivious to or even outraged by this violence when it appears. But until the Right reckons with the flesh-and-blood cost of their continual verbal assault on a group of already marginalized people, and until they repent and begin to fight for the rights and humanity of the LGBTQ community, these physical assaults will continue—and they will have that blood on their hands.
Meanwhile, the rest of us cannot allow fear to cause us to pull back or shut up.
We need to become more bold and more visible allies than we have been before, or we risk devolving into a nation that accepts this unspeakable violence as normal. It is not normal.
This is a moment for people of faith, morality, and conscience to decide with clarity who we are individually and who we want to be collectively. It is a day when individuals and families and neighborhoods and businesses and churches need to stand and be counted.
The dangerous words of the Conservative movement are getting people killed.
It’s time for allies of the LGBTQ community to explicitly speak words that love and bring life and declare what we will not abide here.
We often like to say hate has no home here.
We need to move this from aspiration to incarnation.
To hell with this hatred.
John Pavlovitz is a writer, pastor, and activist from Wake Forest, North Carolina. A 25-year veteran in the trenches of local church ministry, John is committed to equality, diversity, and justice—both inside and outside faith communities. When not actively working for a more compassionate planet, John enjoys spending time with his family, exercising, cooking, and having time in nature. He is the author of A Bigger Table, Hope and Other Superpowers, Low, and Stuff That Needs to Be Said.