Thanksgiving in the U.S. is just a day away, and millions of Americans will gather around tables to offer “thanks” for the many blessings bestowed upon them this past year.
I will not be one of them.
On Saturday, November 20, 2022, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a young man wearing a military-style jacket and carrying an AR-15-style gun walked into a local LGBTQ+ establishment called Club Q. Once inside, the young man opened fire on the innocent victims gathered to enjoy their weekend.
Joshua Thurman told The Washington Post, “We heard the music, and then we heard pop-pop-pop-pop-pop.” He added, “When I heard another set of shots go off, that’s when it clicked in my mind that, oh, it’s going down.”
In a matter of seconds, the suspect killed five people and injured 19 others. If it were not for the bravery of Richard Fierro and Thomas James, the gunman could have killed and injured many more.
Fierro, 45, was at Club Q celebrating a birthday with his wife, their daughter and her friends. According to NBC News, Fierro served in the military for 15 years, doing tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, before leaving as a major.
Fierro recalled the horrifying moment when he heard the gunshots. “I just know I got into the mode, and I needed to save my family — and my family was at that time everybody in that room,” he said.
The suspect, Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, is charged with five counts of murder and five charges of committing a bias-motivated crime causing bodily injury.
According to CNN, “Aldrich was arrested in June 2021 in connection with a bomb threat which led to a standoff at his mother’s home, according to a news release from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office at the time and his mother’s former landlord. Colorado Springs is in El Paso County.”
Aldrich is the grandson of outgoing California Assemblyman Randy Voepel. Voepel compared the January 6 attack on the US Capitol building to the Revolutionary War, stating, “This is Lexington and Concord. First shots fired against tyranny. Tyranny will follow in the aftermath of the Biden swear-in on January 20th.”
This most recent act of violence against the LGBTQ+ community is part of a larger problem. According to Elena Redfield of UCLA’s Williams Institute, LGBTQ+ people are four times more likely to suffer from violent attacks.
The Southern Poverty Law Center said “a cluster of online influencers have ramped up bigoted and conspiracy-laced messaging in the last two years, directing hostile attention at drag shows, businesses, Pride festivals, children’s hospitals, and other places where LGBTQ people come together or receive care.”
While traveling across the country in the weeks leading up to the 2022 midterm elections, I noticed political ads from conservative politicians targeting trans youth. The ads were vile. Their message was clear: members of the LGBTQ+ community have no place in a world dominated by their brand of conservatism. It was disgusting.
Hateful rhetoric adds to the radicalization of young white men wielding AR-15 rifles. I’ve grown extremely tired of, and angry with, those claiming to be “Christian” but sounding more and more like oppressors and dictators. Their hateful words are the chambers in which bullets lie.
James, the brother of Jesus, wrote, “If any think they are religious and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless” (James 1:26). Indeed, James, indeed.
When Jesus instructed his followers to “love their neighbor as they would love themselves,” he did not place any qualifiers on that love. The only qualifier was to love others as you love yourself.
Regardless, the reality remains that such hateful and divisive rhetoric continues to fuel the radicalization of young white men, leading them to open fire on LGBTQ+ clubs, churches, grocery stores, synagogues and schools.
Therefore, this Thanksgiving, I will hang my head and heart low in respect for those killed at the hands of hate. I have many blessings to be thankful for this year, but I am unthankful for where our country continues to dwell.
Things must change! Until then, I think of the families with open seats at their Thanksgiving tables this week. There will be tears. There will be anger. There will be questions.
My prayer for them is that they know many Americans and Jesus followers stand beside them, holding them, comforting them and committing to fight like hell so this will not happen again.
Now, bow with me to honor the dead. They are beautiful children of God, who left this world way too soon. Let us call their names to remember them properly.
Daniel Aston, 28.
Derrick Rump, 38.
Kelly Loving, 40.
Ashley Pugh, 35.
Raymond Green Vance, 22.
Lord, have mercy.
CEO of Good Faith Media.