It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen. Rather than say anything immediately about the Orlando shootings at Pulse, the gay nightclub, I wanted to listen carefully to what others said. I am not sure I have anything better to add, so I am not going to. These are the comments I found most insightful and helpful.
Simon Butler commented immediately on Facebook:
The dreadful attacks in Orlando have served as a reminder that human beings of goodwill have more in common than divide. Theology is important, doctrine is important and ethics are important but unless we start with a commitment to human flourishing and denounce hate-filled violence of all kinds, we are less than we are called to be as God-imaged, created human beings. That it is Christians slaughtered at worship or gay men murdered at play, matters not one jot: let us recognise what we share. I would hope that this sentiment would be echoed by those who hold to a conservative view of human sexuality as much as those who take a progressive view.
Richard Moy posted this most helpful comment on Facebook and then on his blog:
It is not long ago that I was helping to lead the street pastors team in Wolverhampton. The outreach that we did there almost unwittingly had the gay community as one of its main focuses. This was partly because on one of our first nights out we walked past a gay bar and one of the people there, drunk as he was, shouted ‘you hate us don’t you you’re Christians.’ This had the exact opposite affect he was expecting, and over the coming months we ended up going into gay pubs, nightclubs making friends with people there, helping people get home or get to taxis, doing all the usual Street Pastors Good Samaritan things and generally making friends in the gay community in Wolverhampton who also helped us out a lot. I imagine it was a club a bit like these that was attacked this week in Orlando. A bit like the one that some of our Wolverhampton pioneer ministry team choose to have their birthday party in. It’s deeply sad and a great tragedy that that homophobic attack has made a whole community feel more fragile than it ought. Obviously the American insanity on automatic machine gun ownership is partly culpable but so is the them and us divide that can easily emerge and marginalises the LGBTI community.
I might be wrong but I always felt that these clubs were the place Jesus was most likely to go in and hang out as they seemed to me to have some of the most [openly] disenfranchised & marginalised people in (& often I found people really keen on knowing more about the love of a Father God).
Not just that but in the Christian tradition Jesus teaches us that when we go places and help people sometimes we are helping / hosting angels unawares and sometimes we are even helping him – also unaware that it was him. ‘Whatever you did to the least of these you did it for me’… Was Jesus in the club that night in Orlando awaiting your help & prayers? What would he have looked like if you’d seen him there?
Michael Jensen posted an article on ABC Religion and Ethics, from which I share these extracts:
It’s a tragedy. And it really is this time. There’s none better than that word to describe the destruction, agony, and grief that has unfolded before us in Orlando…
And at this point, our contemporary habit is to want to narrate the story into moral meaningfulness. It was the result of Islamic terrorism, or of Islamophobia. It was a gay hate crime, or a crime against freedom itself. It was made possible by lax gun laws in the US, or by inattention to the radicalisation of Islamic youth. It was an event caused by homophobia in general. Conservative Christians are to blame; or even (by some twisted logic) the victims themselves. Even ISIS wanted to tell the story of the event, as an event they owned…
But what we need most is not declarations of the undoubted meaning of the catastrophe, but lament. We need not commentary, but poetry. The causes of this kind of calamity lie not simply with a lack of the right laws, or with the blaming or this or that group. What hidden rage could possibly cause an individual to murder without compassion or sorrow fifty of his fellow creatures? It cannot be reduced to one simple strand. It is, like most evil, absurd.
What the word ‘tragedy’ allows us to do is to sit in the dust bewildered at what has happened; to recognise that others are in agony, and that as human beings, we have been spared that agony not because we are virtuous, but because – this time – our group wasn’t in the frame. The sixteenth century poet Sir Phillip Sidney wrote of tragedy that it
teacheth the uncertainety of this world, and upon how weake foundations guilden roofes are builded.
That is true of dramatic tragedy, and also of the real life incidents we rightly name ‘tragedy’, too. This sense of uncertainty taught us in tragedy leads to the twinned emotions of pity and fear – pity for those who suffer, and fear that we might share their fate.
Could these emotions in the end prove more constructive than the outrage that burns away our emotional circuitry day after day? That anger has no place to go. But pity, or pathos, builds to sym-pathy, and com-pa-ssion; and fear builds to humility and respect for life’s preciousness and fragility, and a seeking after that which transcends us.
David Ould wrote to his local newspaper:
When Christians who are opposed to gay marriage offer prayers and sympathy for the victims of the Orlando shootings they’re not being hypocrites. We are simply following our master Jesus who taught us to love everyone, not just those we agree with.
Perhaps the final word on all this, and other similar events, should be left to John Donne:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
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