My heart broke in two when I heard the news. One half was angry, the other was incredibly sad. I did not feel fear the way many of my brothers and sisters in Christ did. There is a weird sort of privilege to be straight. As the details unfold surrounding this act of terror and hate[i], the sadder I became, leaving the anger behind. In reflection, I am once again painfully reminded of the complexities of life.
I need to name the gunman – Omar Mateen. While I fully support the FBI and media’s strategy to not name him, as a Christian I am called to name him because he is still and always will be made in God’s image. When we deny that any one person is not made in God’s image, we deny that any are made in the Divine image. In addition, we are called by Jesus to love our enemies.
Many are confused and critical of the fact that he was on a terrorist watch list yet still had the ability to buy guns. This asks us to reflect on our own attitudes about guns. As Christians who belong to a whole that is greater than the sum of our parts, what is the relationship between individual freedom and collective safety? The difficult question is: How do we ensure safety in the midst of threat? Jesus said to [the Pharisees and the Herodians], “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”[ii] Let us give the protection of our nation to those who have the authority to do it. And let us not prematurely judge others by the way they look or the circumstances of their lives.
In addition, this calls me to reflect on the juxtaposition that we are all innocent until proven guilty. Do we take away the rights of someone who is a potential threat? Innocent people on the margins are often wrongfully accused of things they are innocent of doing, yet the stigma of being accused follows them around like a dark shadow.
As Christians, let us adopt the example of the LGTBQ community who in the midst of threat and fear are still planning to celebrate their personhood in parades and gatherings with Gay Pride. They choose to live in love rather than fear. Paul’s letter to the Romans states that nothing can separate us from the Love of God[iii]. Some are using fear to drive a wedge between people adding to the overwhelming pain many are already experiencing. The two groups most at risk are the LGTBQ and our Muslim brothers and sisters. It is dangerous to encourage the public to judge a religion by its extremists who misrepresent the tradition. It is also dangerous and against the teachings of Jesus to generalize the act of one individual to a group with whom he or she identifies.
Why does society have to make it so hard to be gay? What does it matter to anyone who any one-person choses to love? The physical expression of love is the concern of the two who enter into that relationship, except when the vulnerable is exploited by the powerful. This exception applies to all physical relationships, straight or not. Richard Hooker was one of the most important 16th century English Theologians. His approach on Ultimate Authority is based on three-prongs: Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. Reason concludes that a human’s sexual orientation exists in our being. It is a part of who God created; this aspect of our personhood should be honored. In addition, intimate relationships between two people are a blessing and also should be honored. Intimate love and connection is one of the most beautiful God given gifts.
A very dear friend of mine lost this connection when her husband recently died. I love this friend very much. Because she hurts so deeply, I too share in her grief. The depth of her love has changed me. My capacity to love has grown through witnessing her love. In my love for humanity, the deaths of the 49 victims, Omar Mateen, and all who were hurt either physically or emotionally affect me. Even in the midst of hurt and grief, I choose to live in hope. Dr. Joseph Ibrahim, the head of the trauma unit at Orlando Regional Medical Center helps bring some perspective to this tragedy. Dr. Ibrahim, a Muslim immigrant, worked tirelessly in the wake of the shooting to save the lives of many Latino immigrants, all of whom were the target of the son of Muslim immigrants. All humans have the capacity to act out of love and hate. I believe that this is a call for all Christians to respond to this horrific event – to be an example to the world – by acting out of love.
[i] President Obama addressed the nation from the White House on Sunday afternoon, calling the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, “an act of terror and an act of hate.”
[ii] Harper Bibles (2009-11-01). NRSV Standard Bible–New Testament (Kindle Locations 2265-2266). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
[iii] Paul’s letter to the Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.