Racism/Hate/Evil is not a Mental Illness. SIT with that for awhile.

We knew it wouldn’t take long. Before we even heard the names of the victims- we heard from media that the suspect was mentally ill. Enough.


Dylan Roof has made it quite clear, as have others, that he hated this group of people.  He wanted to kill them just for being who they were- black.  And yet the media and others toss out the synonyms for mental illness ad nauseaum.

We must stop this labeling.  Foremost, the fact is that those who are mentally ill are more often the victims.  Thus sliding in the euphemisms for mental illness so early after a violent event plants the seed that society doesn’t need to look any further.  Mental illness will be the avenue the media and law enforcement travel.

Why?  Why not, for at least a DAY sit with the concept that racism. is. real. Racism.and. hate. exist. People are evil.  (And no, evil is not a mental illness either, Scriptural herd of swine perpetuate THAT myth).

I strongly believe that authentic discussions on racism are so raw and emotional that society prefers to avoid all but a cursory nod to racism when it comes to violent acts. So much easier to label someone mentally ill. “See? SEE? He’s sick, he’s deranged, and his mental state is in question.” And with that WE feel better. Whew. The evil is no longer among us. There’s a reason- we can point to it. We can rest.

Except mental illness demands its own attention from society. One not connected to the ugliness of racism.

The idea that anyone could be murdered while in a house of faith is anathema to many in the United States. So it MUST be the actions of a mentally ill person. (Consider how many mosques, temples, shrines are bombed in the Middle East and Africa on a weekly basis – you don’t hear mental illness, you hear terrorist).

Terrorism is not a stranger to US soil despite what media wants you to believe. Nine beautiful souls are gone in Charleston and Emmanuel AME as a result of hatred and racism. Six faithful worshippers at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin   were murdered in 2012 due to bigotry and hate; Nine Monks in a Buddhist temple in Phoenix were executed for no reason in 1991. Black lives are being targeted.

I am begging people to think. To have that difficult, uneasy discussion, to sit with the concept that no, this cannot be explained away by a diagnosis. This is tough work. It’s not easy.  I am a Chaplain, an ordained minister in the UCC.  I do not sugar coat facts nor say things to make those I minister with feel better. (In reality that IS the work of a Chaplain- to companion in the messiness of life and meet the other where they are. Happiness is not the goal.)

So I implore my fellow ministers to choose their words carefully for their Sabbath sermons and prayer services. Do NOT choose the easier softer way and default to mental illness, sick mind, deranged, etc.  Embody the pastors who were massacred Wednesday night- step out into the world- BE in the world- with its racism and hate and allow the discussion and anger and emotions to happen. Do not damper anyone’s grief with solutions and reasons for an evil act.

Make no mistake. I am not saying there is no hope. What I AM saying is that we must address this racism in our country now. Black lives matter. (I hear you mumbling all lives matter—- stop that too).

Can we- as a country – in 2015 – focus on the terrorist attacks on Black lives? Can we sit with THAT? At least for 24 hours? For a week? For a month?

Let’s start today. It is racism. Not mental illness.




Faithful presence as IndyPride celebrates 20 years

This weekend Indianapolis will host the twentieth Indy Pride Festival. It has changed drastically over the decades- but there has been one notable and consistent voice- that of the clergy and faith communities. The clergy , faith leaders, churches and temples have participated in Pride, but also met with legislators, testified at the Statehouse, signed petitions, and held prayer vigils advocating for total inclusion of GLBT regarding marriage, adoption, healthcare, and protections. Their polity and doctrine affirm LGBT in the life of the churches and faith community they represent.

In 2014 over 13 churches or houses of faith walked in the Pride parade. Some of these were in the first Pride events in the 90’s- The Church Within, Jesus MCC now LifeJourney, First Congregational UCC, Central Christian to name a few.

The national media is slow to report on such inclusion and support. But it is there. Over 18 denominations affirm same sex marriage with public statements. Another 3 leave the decision to individual churches or conference areas. And some faiths have no stated policy. Add to this that some of the congregations/organizations participating in IndyPride are themselves welcoming, yet at the official doctrinal level their denominations consider GLBT incompatible with the faith. (United Methodists and Roman Catholics). These communities are working from within to change the official stance- and for some it is a long process. But they remain faithful.

So who is at IndyPride? United Church of Christ (UCC), Disciples of Christ (DOC), Metropolitan (MCC), Buddhist, Pentecostal, United Methodist (UMC), Independents (Church Within) Episcopal, Church of the Brethren, Spiritualist, Unity, Unitarians, Roman Catholics (Dignity), to name a few.

The faithfulness of the communities , clergy, and denominations cannot be ignored- yet it is. The continued support will probably not make any headlines, after all, Indiana is fixed. Just ask anyone.

Earlier this year Indiana held the attention of mainstream media (and LBGT organizations) for almost a week when the General Assembly passed and Governor Pence signed into law the Religious Freedom Reformation Act. (RFRA). Mayhem ensued- boycotts, organizations threatening to pull their conventions, artists cancelling performances, and companies talked of moving their headquarters. Even other states canceled trips to the Hoosier State.

And then… the media fell under the spell of Mike Pence and believed the hype when the legislator passed and Pence signed the RFRA “fix”. And they all disappeared. Except those of us long-suffering Hoosiers , including the above mentioned clergy and faith communities , stay the course. We know there never was a “RFRA fix”. On March 25, there was not a law in Indiana which protected businesses or individuals from refusing service to anyone who held a different faith view then theirs. On March 26 when Pence signed RFRA, there is now legal protection for discrimination based on religious views. ( views on anything- birth control, fertility, end of life, marriage, medical treatment…) After the uproar the fix came in- and , unless you live in one of Indiana’s eleven municipalities with a Human Rights Ordinance regarding sexual orientation, it is STILL legal to discriminate. So, no, it is not better. Its still worse.

So when you ask anyone? Try asking any of us who have lived in this State. Ask the grassroots organizations who have maintained their inclusion. Don’t be surprised when you find faithful people who realize nothing has changed regarding LGBT. But, as Mother Theresa said, many come to be faithful, not successful. We haven’t stopped yet.