God, Politics, and Tragedy in Orlando

My leadership style is more “Jean-Luc Picard” than “James T. Kirk.” I’m a collaborative kind of guy who appreciates postponing serious decisions until I’ve had time to talk to the people who will be affected — and people who know more than me. Yes, if necessary, I can be positively authoritarian, but it’s not how I prefer to operate. For that reason, I generally hold back on my harsher opinions and let things go unless they truly need to be addressed immediately. I’m just not that brash.

Today, however, I’m going to grant myself a point of personal privilege and step up on my soap box. My message can be summed up in only two simple words:

Stop it.

All of you, just stop it. Fifty people are dead in the worst shooting on American soil since the Indian massacres. It doesn’t matter it happened at a gay club. It doesn’t matter if the victims were gay, straight, or something else. What matters is fifty families have been irreparably torn asunder. They will never again see the smile on their loved one’s face, never again hear their laughter, dry their tears, feel the warmth of their hugs or the fire of their fury. What matters is they have experienced an incomparable loss from which they will never fully recover. Parents lost children, siblings lost siblings, friends lost the one person closest to them in the entire world. Fifty people are dead. Those souls now face eternity in whichever destination they were bound for based on their acceptance or rejection of Jesus Christ. As Ecclesiastes 3:4 says, there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” This is a time to weep and mourn. Just like at any other senseless murder, this is a time for sackcloth and ashes and prayer and longing for the day our last enemy is finally defeated once and for all.

How dare you try to use these fifty deaths to further your own political agenda.

Social media, news articles, any and every medium available to us has been flooded with rants on both sides of the gun control issue in the days since the shooting. People cry out that if those fifty people had been armed (or even if only some of them had), they wouldn’t have died — after all, even radical Muslims can be stopped by bullets — and so we need to provide nigh unfettered access to guns and ammunition. Those on the other side loudly proclaim the opposite, saying our society made it too easy for the shooter to acquire his weapon; we need harsher laws governing the sale of arms and such ordnance. Pastors in my area have come out on both sides of the issue.

Stop it.

Personally, I know next to nothing about gun laws. I once held a concealed carry permit, yes, but I could never tell you what constitutes an assault weapon or how many rounds you can legally put in your squirrel gun. I freely admit my knowledge of weapons barely makes it to the late Middle Iron Age. I can tell you about the Roman gladius and techniques for fighting with a trident/net combination in the Colosseum, and that’s about as new as I get. Any opinion I could offer on the subject of gun control would be ill-informed and far more theological and common sense than legal. But that doesn’t matter right now anyway.

So if you’re using these deaths as leverage right now, let me call you the ghoul you are and say stop it.

Many posts have also arisen criticizing the Christian response to the massacre. Let me say I haven’t actually encountered most of what they’re railing against (Christians saying they had it coming for being gay), but I have seen many trying to tell Christians we can’t offer prayers for Orlando and still condemn homosexuality as sinful and against the will of God.

Stop it.

Those who make such frankly ludicrous claims don’t understand prayer, Christianity, or love (real love, not what passes for it in popular parlance these days). There is absolutely nothing preventing us from loving our neighbors as ourselves and still adhering to biblical morality. We can mourn and weep even while wishing gay clubs didn’t exist, all without holding to some hateful contradiction. Those who say otherwise are, like those in the gun control debate, using these fifty people as leverage for a theo-political agenda. You are using death and injury as tools to coerce Christians into coming over to your way of thinking on the issue.

Stop it.

And if any Christians are in fact trying to take advantage of this tragedy to proclaim a message of damnation against homosexual people, I tell you the same thing.

Stop it.

There is a time and a place for both of these discussions. We truly need to engage in dialogue about gun control and homosexuality. We need — desperately, truly need — Republicans and Democrats to sit down together, not as members of a political party with indefensible arrogance and the idolatry of a party platform, but as human beings who recognize the humanity of the other as well as their own obligations as people in power to do good and justice and mercy. We need those conversations to happen. Orlando proves that.

But those fifty human beings who once had dreams and loves and families lie dead. Over fifty more will carry bullet-shaped scars — physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual — forever. Out of respect for the dead, out of respect for the living, out of respect for a God who loves them as He loves you, please don’t turn them into a talking point on a list in support of your agenda. Please take time instead to mourn and weep and pray.

And if you dare open your mouth for any other reason on this matter,

Stop it.

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