Some will say this is too late – but life happens. Sometimes there are more than enough people and events and activities to fill the day that you simply don't have the time to think carefully and thoughtfully about situations like this. There have been far too many inappropriate things said in the last few days, to rush any comments. As I said in a tweet “I have no words for what happened in Orlando but I would hate for my silence to be taken as anything other than shock, grief and sadness.”
Our first response is to grieve with those who grieve, to weep with those who weep, to mourn with those who mourn. Some will say that is not enough, and they are probably right; but, if we don’t begin there, we deny our humanity and we deny the humanity of those who were shot.
So what can I say that speaks to the situation?
I want to say this carefully and loudly. Nothing that follows, is in anyway a minimization of the hurt and pain that the LGBTQ community feels over this shooting. That action was wrong – no matter what the race, religion, creed, or sexuality of the perpetrator; no matter what the race, religion, creed, or sexuality of those who were shot. It was more than wrong. It was more than tragic. It was evil. You can’t make sense of evil.
But there is something deeper here, than the hatred that the LGBTQ community feels. I need to say this again: nothing that follows in anyway minimizes the hurt and pain that the LGBTQ community feels. And when we – whether that’s evangelical Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, whatever stripe you call yourself, or simply as human beings – when we fail to grieve with those who are grieving we are acting as less than people.
So yes, the perpetrator was Muslim. Yes, the victims were, I can only assume, largely LGBTQ. Yes, there is some suggestion of mental health issues. Yes, guns were involved. But if we make what happened about one of those things (there’s no good word that I am aware of to pull all of these together. I don’t want to use the world “issue” as that is so dehumanizing) we end up with a too narrow view of what happened.
Stay with me.
- The media has labelled this the worst mass shooting in USA history. It is part of a string of mass shootings, going back well over a 100 years. It’s not the worst: people have conveniently forgotten the Wounded Knee Massacre of 29 December 1890, when 150-300 Lakota Indians – men, women and children – were shot by the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment.
- I haven’t been able to find the numbers, but gun violence has taken more lives since the Orlando killings. The site, www.gunviolencearchive.org, says that 6,051 people in the USA have been killed by gun violence between 1 January 2016 and 14 June 2016.
- The US and to some extent Canada loves the idea of personal rights. This often gets defined as “I should be able to do whatever I want.” If that means carry assault weapons, or have the right to kill myself, I should be able to do that.
- Our neighbours in the USA execute criminals, despite the fact that many of those executed are poor, black, with mental health issues and poorly represented in court.
- Here in Canada, the Supreme Court has said that the unborn child is not a person and can be killed at anytime prior to birth. Some abortions take place later than pre-mature births. And yet neither the Courts nor the Government see the irony of this. Some are now using the language of post-birth abortion for infanticide.
- We are in the final stages of passing a law on Euthanasia (of course, we have replaced that word with the much nicer sounding MAID – Medical Assistance In Dying), while we remove protection for the most vulnerable, and reduce funding for palliative care.
- condemned Muslims;
- condemned the LGBTQ community;
- condemned those who argue for restrictions on guns (no matter how minor the changes);
- ignored the pain and hurt of those both within and outside the LGBTQ community who have lost family and friends;
- called this God’s wrath or judgement;
- made excuses; and,
- said “everything happens for a reason.” No it doesn’t. Evil has no reason. It is anti-reason, anti-love.
The central issue here is:
- not Muslim vs Christian;
- not how much violence is rooted in Islam;
- not terrorism or ISIS/ISIL;
- not LGBTQ rights;
- not gun control;
- in the midst of a world full of violence and hate (and too often Christians have been the ones who have propagated that violence and hate);
- announcing that there is room at the Table for everyone (not everyone “except…”, or everyone “but…”);
- welcoming and inviting people to Jesus who welcomes and invites everyone to come to him, to meet him, to be loved by him, to be transformed by him.
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48, NLTThis post is obviously a partial and incomplete response. The solutions are not easy.
- not while we were at our best, but while we were at our worst.
- not when we were treating him as a friend, but when we were treating him as an enemy.”