"They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul... And Saul approved of their killing him." - Acts 7:58-8:1 (Excerpts)
Stephen was stoned to death because he dared to follow a rabbi who had been condemned and crucified by dogmatic religious authorities and paranoid Roman officials.
Saul never threw a stone at Stephen, but he gave consent to Stephen's murder by holding the coats of Stephen's assailants and by offering no conscientious objection.
In his eulogy at the funeral of three of the four little girls massacred in the infamous Birmingham Bombing, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed that the slain little girls had something to say to America not merely about their murderer, but about the system, the way of life and the philosophy that produced the murderers.
On the solemn anniversary of the Slain Nine at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, many are now painfully conscious of the ways in which a culture represented by the Confederate flag helped to incubate the assassin that struck at Mother Emanuel.
It's now time that we face forthrightly the climate that produced the hate crime at the night club in Orlando.
Notwithstanding the seismic advances in LGBTQ equality, gay and transgender people still live in climates where they are regarded as abominations and second class citizens.
We know the rhetoric: "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" - as if Steve, who was also created by God, has no legitimate place in the family of God.
We know the rhetoric: "Love the sinner; hate the sin" - as if it's possible to disembody a person out of his/her sexuality.
We know the rhetoric. And we should also know the horrific actions it fosters.
God, even if we pull no triggers and throw no stones, show us the blood that is still on our hands. Amen.
Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia.