Four Thoughts after the Orlando Massacre
In the early hours of Sunday morning, a man walked into Pulse, a well-known gay nightclub in Orlando, and opened fire with an assault rifle. In an act of terror, motivated by violent religious extremism, he slaughtered 49 other people and wounded another 53. I look forward to the day when I no longer need to write newsletter articles about horrific events like this one, but that day has not yet come.
- The Psalms come flooding back to me: Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? (10:1) My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? (6:3) How long, Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their ravages, my precious life from these lions. (35:7) Relent, Lord! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants. (90:13) Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered. (60:5, 108:6) Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. (80:3,7,19)
- Inaction cannot be an option. We need to pray. We need to pray for healing for those who are grieving. We need to pray for our enemies. But we cannot afford to stop there. One of the greatest roles of prayer I’ve discovered in my life is not that it changes God, but it changes me. By praying to God, I learn to care about the things God cares about. “Not my will, but yours be done.” The proper result to prayer is often action. Through prayer we discover God’s love and compassion and justice and mercy; it is only natural then that we act on it. Prayer guides our action so that it is not knee-jerk vengeance or empty promises. Our action as Christians will lead us always to pursue God’s justice (the goal) with God’s love (the means). If we believe what we claim, that with God there is always comfort, with God there is always hope, and that with God there will be ultimate victory, then we ultimately have to be ready to put ourselves on the line, to sacrifice our time, our reputation, our likability, so that God can use us to accomplish those ends in which we place all our hope.
- This is not a distant problem that others have to deal with. Last year another Islamic extremist ruthlessly killed innocent people in Chattanooga, where I was living. It became one of the most surreal days of my life. The terrorist had lived less than a half mile from our house in our own neighborhood, a quiet mostly-white middle-class suburban neighborhood. My rose colored stained glass was shattered that day. I could not just watch the news and think “That’s terrible” and go on with my day. We cannot pretend that this is a distant problem in a different community. The terrorist in Orlando chose a popular gay bar for this terrible massacre. We have LGBT friends and family members in our very midst. This directly effects them, directly threatens their ongoing security. We cannot pretend this is a distant irrelevant problem. If we are not capable of embracing the LGBT friends and family in our midst and making sure they know they belong, we leave them vulnerable to a world that is still discriminating against them.
- We cannot let hatred and fear be stronger than our love. I’m tired of writing words like these. I’m tired of addressing more senseless murder. But I will not stop because I will not let the hatred and fear win. Our love has to be stronger. It is shockingly easy, almost effortless, to respond to this violent homophobia with a different fear, with a combustible islamophobia. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”