Thoughts on Orlando

This week has been a time for weeping and reflection. We remember those who have passed, while we are soberly reminded that there is real evil in this world. We remember the gifts of life and liberty, while we mourn how quickly they can also be taken away.

Unfortunately, this attack struck us in the midst of a hot social and political climate, which means we need all the more to listen carefully and speak wisely. These are but a few thoughts that have been on my mind in recent days.

First, to the families and friends of all those impacted by the atrocity at Pulse you have my deepest sympathies. What Omar Mateen did was malicious, heinous, despicable, and evil. As a Christian, I believe he will be judged accordingly and justice will be served on the final day of God’s judgment. I pray that by the grace of God you may find peace and comfort in your suffering through Jesus Christ.

Now, concerning the issue of labeling the monsters committing such violence, I admit that there are many factors and parties to consider (especially for a statesman) when publicly labeling people. I sympathize with President Obama who called this issue a political talking point brought up to score points with the Right. He is no doubt observing a shameful trend, and we on the Right need to own how this issue has become a senselessly hot-button topic for us. This should not be an issue where we either open or close our ears to someone depending on whether he or she is willing to utter the label we feel is correctly applied to such people.

However, I respectfully disagree with the President’s notion that labeling these persons with precision is not important. Diagnosing a problem is the first step to solving it. If we continue to cast these radicals in such vague abstractions (like ‘extremists’ or ‘persons of hate’), I find it hard to see how we will go about either defending ourselves or defeating the enemy. There are many kinds of ‘extremists’ – Bernie Sanders is an extremist, Westboro Baptist Church members are extremists, Gandhi was an extremist. We must identify with clarity and care what it is we’re fighting against.

Furthermore, can we please all agree on this: not all Muslims are part of ISIS, but all ISIS members are Muslims? I’m no Islamic scholar; perhaps they are a radical, extremist, minority sect of Muslims. But to deny that these people are grounded in and motivated by a religious ideology – and specifically one that, however genuine to ‘true Islam’, stems from Islam – is ludicrous. They do not merely hate certain people, they are ideologically obliged to hate. They do not just mindlessly kill, they are motivated to kill. And it is not as though ISIS members are reading the New Testament or the Torah; they are inspired by the teachings of Islam.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not for a moment advocating that every Muslim should be treated as a threat (or that we should ban all Muslim immigrants, even temporarily). The first half of the statement above is just as important as the latter. If you have Muslim neighbors, you should treat them with the respect and dignity of any other law-abiding citizen. Especially as Christians in America, we ought to be the most amicable, the most loving, and the most respectful – as we believe they are not only our fellow citizens, but fellow image bearers of God.

Finally, to my fellow Christians, and especially those living in the Orlando area, I appeal to you to make known the love of Jesus Christ in these dark days. Our relationship with the LGBT community has not always been a good one. But what an opportunity we have to come together over such an abominable act and to demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ to hurting people; and in so doing, to contrast Christian love towards all persons (whatever their so-called ‘sexual orientation’) with that of all other faiths and creeds – Islam included.

Let’s outshine the lovers of the world with love. Let’s outcry the weepers of the world with weeping. Let’s overshadow the peacemakers of the world with making peace. Let’s outdo the respecters of the world with showing respect. Never give up on truth and always keep a clear conscience; but may the love of God in Jesus Christ forever burn in our hearts and burst from our lips and hands.

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