America is still reeling from the worst mass shooting in American history. You are already, no doubt, well aware of the details and I’ve no desire to glorify the act or the evil deeds done by an evil man by repeating what you already know.
I really only am penning this blog for two reasons, and while I share in this time of shock and sorrow with all of my fellow Americans, I want to say something specifically to two different communities with whom I am connected I have intimate connections, dear friends, family and other loved ones in both communities. The gay community and the Christian community.
First and foremost I want to say to the anyone who is part of the gay community, that while we all mourn and reel in the face of such monstrous evil as visited that night club this weekend, I also know that when such unwarranted persecution, destruction, and hatred is targeted at a community to which you are a part, the fear, shock, sorrow and anger is even greater. I understand and I want you to know that I too am shocked, horrified, sad and angry. I do not claim to know your pain particularly, but I am taking time in my processing before I reach any other conclusions, to simply sit and mourn with you as best as I know how. I am so sad for your violation, for your loss, for your pain. You may stop reading this blog at this point if you are not part of the Christian community, because my next words are for them.
My fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, what do we do at a time like this? What is the Godly, holy and loving reaction? Of course, to a large degree you will have to walk that question with God in your own circles, but as I’ve watched the reaction on social media, I am seeing something that I am not entirely unfamiliar with as a pastor, and if my observation can help, than here it is. Since the advent of social media we get to see people’s reactions to destruction, horror and evil in an almost immediate fashion. We are watching normal people, not trained journalists, process their reaction in real time. As a pastor I’ve seen this a lot, but not on this national scale. I’ve been there and watched families deal with their own personal horrors in the moment. I’ve seen how the processing mind and mouth can say and do things that do not truly reflect the deep feelings of pain and hurt that the family member is feeling. Actually for those closest to the horror there is usually no room for anything but sheer sorrow, terror, grief, and sometimes anger. It’s those one step removed; the friend who comes alongside, the pastor who sits to talk, the caring acquaintance who hears about it from afar. These people want to help. They want to react in a positive, Godly helpful way…but often they don’t. They do exactly what your Facebook friends who have no connection to the night club shooting are doing. They try to fix. They try to identify why such a terrible thing happened and make it unhappen. They try to assure you that if you had done something differently, or sown a different seed, or whatever, that you could have avoided this. If they are gentler they may instead try to help you see how what happened to you was good disguised as evil. These responses, well meaning though they are, are of course not actually helpful. So, here’s a few thoughts for my Christian friends as you respond (or don’t) on Social media not only to this event but to others to come. Consider it, now and in the future. If you’ve better thoughts or other thoughts, please comment below. Any comments which violate the principles below too strongly, however, will possibly be deleted, so be aware.
- Now is not the time to identify your prescription for making sure this never happens again. There will be time for that, but this is not it. This is not about guns, or gay bars, or hate crimes legislation or islamic terror. Those things are important, but right now for those closest it’s only about not seeing their son or friend or daughter or husband again; it’s only about feeling violated and unsafe and terrified. It’s only about infinite “whys” which are not answered politically, not by you and not in the time it takes you to post on Facebook.
- Understand that when you, even subtly, blame the victims for being in the wrong place, or the wrong kind of person, you are unintentionally being cruel. Understand that the compulsion to do this comes from your own desire to protect yourself; to be able to assure yourself it couldn’t happen to you. God is your protector; your lifestyle is not.
- Understand that it does matter that it was a gay bar, in that it makes in ten thousand times more scary to a gay person. How do you feel when someone shoots up a church? Do you not want your atheist friends to be compassionate when it happens, even though they would never be in a church.
- Remember two verses from Romans 12.
- Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. I don’t know what that looks like. Neither do you. But it is our obligation to do our best to find out at times like these.
- Mourn with those who mourn. Christ says He is always with us and this is one of the most important promises He makes. Can you, at this moment, be with those in pain and shock right now? Can you stop distancing yourself with politics, and anger and explanations? This is a terrible time to be alone. Don’t let them be.
Let your light so shine that even the pagans may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven. Jesus is our only hero, our only messiah, the only one who can fix the world.
Mourning with my fellow humans who’ve faced an evil I’ve never had to,
Immensely powerful words, David. Thank you.