The shooting at an Orlando Nightclub that killed 49 people and injured 53 more has it all. It has radicalized hate filled religion, LGBT community, guns. It was a mass shooting, hate crime, and a terrorist attack all rolled into one. It has all the social things that we are fighting with each other over for a long time. Just like all the other tragedies of this year and last year. Just like Newton, Aurora, Columbine, and Oklahoma City our politics is what drives our reaction. If you are liberal you will see this as an assault by a crazy person who hated gays. You will call for gun laws. If you are conservative you will blame Islam and say that maybe they deserved it. But what will be lost for all of us is our humanity. We will all struggle to find a way forward that helps to get rid of hatred and violence.
Because of this I am always trying to find a way to speak out that encourages us to love each other through horrible times of crises. I am trying to build bridges with people who do not share my world view. I have believed that our politics have been driving our hatred and dislike for each other. I want peace. I want us to get along. I want us to talk to each other, and to listen. I want us to read and listen to those who have done their homework. I want us to use reason, science, and facts to make well thought out reasoned arguments as to why we believe certain things. However, this time I have to speak out. I have been silent for too long.
Because despite all the evidence that having more guns is making us less safe we will still resist and say that people kill people and not guns. Despite the fact that the United States has a murder rate 15 times higher than that of other wealthy countries, which have tougher gun laws. Some will still argue that we need more guns. Some will still believe that there right to own a rifle designed to kill people in combat is more important than my right to live. No one is talking about taking your hunting rifle. We are talking about making laws to keep guns away from bad people that use those guns to kill people. We are talking about restricting what types of guns you can own. There is no reason to have a military grade gun except if you plan at some point to kill someone.
As a person who follows Jesus Christ I cannot condone violence. I can see that violence is part of our sinful fallen world. I know that there are times when our country in extreme circumstances needs to go to war. But even in those times I cannot condone it. I cannot say it is OK to do. Jesus Christ told us that “if we live by the sword we will die by the sword”. Jesus refused to use violence to save his own life. Because, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and loose his soul?” Jesus showed us what living in God’s kingdom looks like on this earth. And that kingdom does not include guns or weapons of any kind. Jesus lived a life of inclusion, he lived a life of peace, and as a person who attempts to follow that example I cannot condone using or owning a gun. Especially a gun like the one used in the shooting in Orlando.
I have been quiet about this issue for a long time. I believed it was one of those issues that was just lost in the mud. I was surprised that even after children were shot and killed in Newton that we didn’t do anything to stop people from buying the kinds of guns that kill a lot of people. If the person in Orlando had a knife do you think he would have killed as many people as he did?
I know that many people are going to blame the Islamic faith for what happened. We hear all around the world as radicalized Islamic groups kill people. I am not. I have known Muslims who are in no way shape or form murders or killers. I know them as people who seek peace. I know them to be thoughtful caring people. The problem is not Islam. It is religion. It is when we cling to the idea that our religion is the only one. The problem is when we believe that we know all the answers, and everyone else is wrong or bad. It is when we use that religion to make ourselves feel more important. For me as a Christian the end result of my faith is to try and make the world a better place. It is to take this life that I am blessed to live and use it to make others lives better. My faith is what gives me courage to seek peace and love. Religion is a powerful thing. It is why politicians use it to make us vote for them, or so we will go to war believing that we have done the right thing.
More than this it is the twisting and perverting of religion to make God into a vindictive killer. True religion honors God. And God is love. God is creation. God is hope. God is the one who desires for all of us to “have life and have it in abundance”. God wants life for gays, lesbians, transgendered, no gender, or whatever other groups we can think to name. If you believe that your religion wants you to kill other people. No matter your religion you are doing it wrong. God does not desire that of any of us. All the religions I know are about caring for others, finding compassion, and honoring God by loving the world God created. To say otherwise is to pervert and twist religion to serve our own selfish need to feel superior.
The thing that I struggle with is that even the people who will hate what I am saying here. Even the people who have totally different views than I have, the people who think that it is normal for someone to have a military grade assault rifle, the people who think that Jesus hates any group or people. The people who have twisted Christianity into something that is anti Biblical. Even those people I care about. I love them. I want to have a dialogue about the issues. I want us to build a relationship. I love them, because Jesus has told me to love my neighbor as he loves me. I know that Jesus loves me through all of my craziness and all of my backward thinking. I can’t just ignore those that disagree with me, or write them off as “Crazy people”. No they are much more than that. They are children of God.
And that is what has kept me from speaking out in the past my love for those who will read this and hate me for it. I want you to know I still love you. I want us to talk in a way that does not call names. But I also cannot be silent any longer. I have to speak my truth just as you have to speak yours. I can’t sit around and wait for the next mass shooting. I cannot sit and listen to a presidential candidate call for surveillance of all Muslims, or for the US to deport millions of people. I can't listen to another religious person talk about how God hates people who are LGBT. I can’t listen to it anymore and not say something. I have to say this is not what Jesus wanted! This is not how Jesus would act!
Love is the only answers to these acts of evil! Not more guns. Not finger pointing. Not blaming each other. Love. I rest on that. Because that is the way that Jesus taught us, showed us, and encouraged us to live. Even then our love is always humanly imperfect. However, if we want to stop the killing, and if we want to come together love is the only answer I know. We have to see the best in our neighbor. We have to stop talking bad about each other and start talking to each other. We have to find our way back to our shared humanity. And we have to have laws that stop people from buying military grade weapons!