Shortly after midnight on October 7, 1998, Matthew Shepard met 2 locals in a Laramie, Wyoming bar and asked them for a ride home. Subsequently, he was robbed, severely beaten, tied to a fence and left to die. The attackers also found out his address, intending to burglarize his home. Shepard was discovered by a bicyclist 18 hours later, still alive but unconscious.
Matthew suffered a fracture from the back of his head to the front of his right ear. He had severe brain stem damage, which affected his body’s ability to regulate heart rate, body temperature and other vital signs. There were also about a dozen small lacerations around his head, face and neck. His injuries were deemed too severe for doctors to operate. Matthew never regained consciousness and remained on full life support. He later died on October 12 at 12:53 am at a hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado. His entire family was by his side for the last few days of his life.
Matthew was a student at the University of Wyoming and was specifically targeted because he was gay. As horrific as this murder was, the greater tragedy was the actions of “Christians” who protested at his funeral, declaring their disdain for Matthew’s existence and their approval that he was facing eternal punishment. On their website is a counter displaying the days that Matthew has been burning in hell. If you move the cursor over a certain point, you can “hear him crying out in torment.” What kind of sick…?
People ask why we’ve stuck with bridge building efforts for so long. For many reasons, but among them to help alleviate tensions that too often begin in church. Of course, people are going to disagree on a wide variety of subjects. But does that make other people any less worthy of common respect? Why the constant need to dehumanize, demoralize, and demonize others?
Christians, especially, I ask all of us to remember our chains, where we’ve come from. What happened to grace and mercy? Why do we always have to reduce people to what we perceive as the lowest common denominator? Have we not been shown unconditional and unyielding love?
It’s our desire to reconnect people with God. Many will disagree with us even accuse us of compromising. All I know is that many are being blocked from a chance to know Christ because of their orientation. And for some reason, in pharisaical fashion, Christians seemingly add requirements to LGBT people following Christ. It’s almost as if they need to make themselves acceptable before they can be pleasing to God. We’ve come a long way since “Come Just As You Are.”
Homophobia, discrimination, and ignorance must stop! And despite the continual raging cultural and political wars, the Church needs to remain a beacon of hope and a demonstration of true love…not a courtroom of public opinion and a squad of self-proclaimed moral police. Let us stop marginalizing people and stripping them of their dignity and self respect.
To the other victims of hate, people with similar situations like Asher Brown, Billy Lucas, Bruce Ciniello, Carl Hoover, Seth Walsh, Tyler Clementi, Eric Borges and countless more…don’t take away God’s greatest gift to you! There’s a reason to keep going. I can’t guarantee that it will get better but I can tell you there is true Hope available to you. Despite what the posters of diluted, shallow, and bitter people say…God doesn’t hate you! He loves you so much!