Last weekend over 50 people lost their lives when a Muslim gunman who claimed allegiance to ISIS opened up in a gay nightclub in Orlando. It was a terrible act of malice driven by any number of factors still being sifted through, an awful tragedy that is shocking in both its scope and ferocity that has spawned a variety of reactions from all sides. Not-so-surprisingly, everyone sees what they want: gun-control advocates say, “If we’d ban guns this wouldn’t happen!” Gun-owners shout, “If we’d been there this wouldn’t happen!” Islamophobes say, “See, they’re all out to get us!” Anti-Gay extremists shout, “This is the justice of Gawd!” One fine ACLU staff lawyer even managed to find it within himself to blame it on Christians, lol. The point is, in the immediacy of the emotional trauma (and this is a traumatic event for millions of people across the country) everyone seems to have a knee-jerk reaction to see what they want to see and to politicize the event in order to support their own agenda. Even the media has gotten in on the act, proclaiming it “the largest mass shooting in U.S. history,” a headline sure to boost sales at least a little bit, right? Apparently the Wounded Knee Massacre doesn’t count (sorry, Native America). And they’re doing more harm than good. While people across the nation follow their hearts in a rush to judgment, the reasoned truth often gets tossed aside in favor of inflammatory rhetoric and that is a tragedy in and of itself.
What, then, should we do instead? Here’s a few suggestions.
- Stay calm. For the love of all that’s holy, don’t just react! Ask pretty much anyone anywhere who’s had any kind of crisis training and they’ll tell you that this is rule #1. The reason? Because emotional responses are rarely helpful. Whether you were in the club itself, or watching the whole thing unfold on your laptop three thousand mile away, the rules are the same. Your personal emotional crisis doesn’t deserve a knee-jerk response. People are suffering, be rational.
- Pray for the victims, both direct and indirect. People are suffering, be supportive.
- Say something positive. Show support for the direct and indirect victims of this atrocity. People are suffering, be encouraging. (You, on your screen in another state, if you’re all torqued up about it, may in fact represent an indirect victim of the tragedy.)
- Stop spouting off on social media. There’s enough claptrap out there without you getting hysterical on your soapbox about Islamophobia, homophobia, gun control or whatever else crosses you mind. All that just makes it about you, not victims. People are suffering, be empathetic.
- Stop re-posting other people’s claptrap, it’s the same thing.
- Spend real time considering the issues. There are no easy fixes here, just very complex issues that deserve to be addressed. People are suffering, be wise.
- Get some skin in the game. Maybe it’s time to stop flapping your lips and start moving the rest of your body. Volunteer, give cash, donate a few of your own precious resources to the cause of helping others. If not directly to the Pulse victims, then somewhere else. When was the last time you showed up to serve at a soup kitchen? Homeless shelter? Community garden? Food pantry? When was the last time you gave? People are suffering, be loving.
As Christians, we have a clear Biblical mandate to reach out and show love to everybody. Everybody. That includes people we don’t agree with because of lifestyle choices, religious affiliation, racial background, political bent or whatever other dividing line you want to use to define “us” and “them.” Love. That’s what this should be about. For the followers of Jesus this is not about guns or gays or Muslims or any other thing. It’s about love.
For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believeth in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.
The Pulse Massacre has, in a sense, put John 3:16 on trial. How will God’s children respond? How will you respond?
I was discussing this with a friend, not so much emotional responses, but how the church should respond, or rather, how She has an opportunity for response. Talking just about Joplin, there’s a gay nightclub within our city limits. As people of Jesus, we could easily serve those who go to that club. Just within our church communities, we have an enormous amount of church buses. Why not offer free rides home? Or do something similar? I’m not sure that I have a direct answer, nor am I sure how to organize something like this, but I feel like the people within the LGBT community need to know that they aren’t alone; that even if we disagree on some things, we still love them.
My friend and I went to the candlelight ceremony in honor of the Pulse victims. It was enlightening. Police were there and, if I’m honest, I felt a bit of fear that someone would show up and begin to shoot. (We were in a park and hundreds of people were milling around.) I wasn’t ashamed to feel that bit of fear, but I wondered how much fear this community must be living in right now. As we stood there with the people of Joplin, my friend voiced the opinion that it would have been wonderful if a lot of church buses just showed up and stood alongside them. There were some Christians there. One preacher prayed for the victims and the community in Joplin. One guy from a Christian motorcycle group was also invited to speak. The people at the memorial seemed thankful and genuinely welcomed the prayer. It was encouraging that some people had already begun to reach out. I’m just hoping that more people will.