Orlando has been heavy on my heart and the hearts of people around the world this week. The devastating and horrific hate crime against our LGBT sisters and brothers in at an Orlando night club ushers us once again into a state of shock, grief, and outrage. Questions flood our mind. Another hate crime? Another mass shooting? Why does this evil exist? Where is God in the midst of this devastation?
Thoughts and Prayers.
In the United States, we are all too familiar with this sentiment. Thoughts and Prayers. A once courteous expression has now taken on a sour and twisted connotation by its usage in maddening frequency. It is commonplace to see a massacre as a tragic event, express our condolences, and simply move on. Rinse and repeat.
According to Vox, the U.S. has 4.43% of the world’s population and 42% of the world’s privately owned guns.
Kutter Callaway, one of my professors at Fuller Theological Seminary wrote a helpful article last year in the Huffington Post about gun control after the San Bernardino shooting to which someone responded in an article on their own website, "Our Second Amendment is our recognition that God gave us the right to defend our rights with arms." It's no secret that American Christians are deeply divided on the issue of gun control, but gun violence is a problem we can no longer ignore.
Blessed are the peacemakers.
As Christians, I believe Jesus calls us to a life of radical peacemaking. I believe this peacemaking calls us to compassionately engage the stranger as the very site of our salvation. Hold no anger. Love your enemy. Stand alongside the oppressed. Being compassionate means entering the wounded heart of the world and being with those who are exploited, with whom God identifies.
According to the New York Times, nearly 1/5 of hate crimes reported to the F.B.I. in 2014 were because of the target’s sexual orientation.
By relegating LGBT sisters and brothers, who are created in the image of God, as "sinners" or "broken," churches in the United States bear much of the responsibility for the vitriol that has perpetuated the violence against them. Collectively deeming people as somehow not fully human endangers their lives. When the author of Isaiah writes about a kingdom of shalom in chapter 32, God's peace includes people working for the rights and needs of everyone. Working for justice. As the church, we must listen to the stories of our LGBT friends who continue to suffer from this way of thinking and being, and begin planting the seeds of hope and peace by becoming the people of God who labor for justice on behalf of those who do not yet have it.
May we remember that the Kingdom of God or what Jesus sometimes calls "life to the fullest" is a tiny mustard seed, a simple plowshare for the cultivation of the dignity and value of ever person's life and breath.
Let's get to work.