To be honest, I have often wanted to respond to offers of prayer–don’t bother. But never more than at times like this.
Sunday morning (6/12), at approximately 2AM, a gunman went into a night club in Orlando, FL and began to murdered its patrons. By 6AM the shooting stopped. As a result, 50 people are dead. Dozens more are wounded. The violence profoundly impacted a community, cause hundreds of families and friends to mourn the loss of loved ones, and once again stunned a nation. As the FBI and local authorities investigate we will find out more details about the shooter’s life, mental state, and beliefs than we care to know. We will endure the continuous updates and repeated images of angry protesters, grieving sympathizers, and politicians trying to make a point, AKA score from the tragedy.
And, this vile act is a tragedy. It reveals numerous opportunities where America has neglected to act rightly, where we have fail to protect our people, where our fear and ignorance have ruled the day over our compassion and intellect. The fact we can refer to these tragedies in the plural, and they have their own category–mass shootings–boggles the mind. For me, two issues dominate my FB page, news feed, and thinking in the wake of this heinous crime. And no, I am not talking about the need for tougher immigration laws, escalating the conflict in the Middle East, shoving the LGBT community back into the closet, or finding Jesus. I am talking about the need for stronger gun control, and the role of religious hate.
The shooter in Orlando obtained his semi-automatic assault rifle legally. He was known for violent out bursts and racist, homophobic, and sexist comments. He was even investigated by the FBI and on a watch list. Yet, he obtained his handgun legally. He had mental health issues. He had known sympathies for extremist hate groups. He was an American citizen. And, he obtained his weapons legally.
Just so we’re perfectly clear: I personally don’t care about your gun rights! When you refuse to come to the table to discuss reasonable laws regarding gun use and ownership your “rights” don’t deserve to be considered. When you refuse to take responsibility for putting non-sport weapons in the hands of unstable people your “rights” don’t get a vote. My rights and my children’s rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness trump your right to carry a gun that could kill multiple people in seconds.
And guess what–most Americans favor stricter gun regulations. 79 percent of Americans support background checks, 80 percent support preventing the mentally ill from buying weapons, and 61 % are neutral or would favor a ban–A BAN–on semi automatic weapons. Yet Congress continues to stall and postpose any attempt to pass more stringent legislation regarding guns. Why? Well, between 2000 and 2012 the gun lobby poured $81 million dollars into House, Senate, and presidential races.
Our constitution does not give you or me unfettered freedom to do whatever we want whenever we want to whomever we want! In fact, our Constitution quite frequently limits our freedom. It regulates government but it also regulates individuals. The 2nd Amendment everyone is so anxious to defend, couples our right as an individual to bear arms with the need to maintain a well regulated militia. And what does the phrase “well regulated” refer to? It refers to the training a body of volunteer soldiers is expected to undergo. Thus our freedom is paired with a responsibility, one we have severely neglected. So, if you stand with those who are unwilling to pass laws limiting the sale and use of weapons–especially weapons of mass destructions–then in light of the most recent gun related tragedy in Orlando, take your oh so precious prayers and leave me and mine alone! Period. prayer without feet is simply not good enough.
Now, while I am adamant on my stance about what the 2nd Amendment actually protects and our need for stricter gun laws the issue raised by the Orlando shooting which takes precedence for me today is the hate stirred up and passed off as righteousness by religion. And, I’m not really talking about Islamic extremists; I’m talking abut Christian extremists because it’s their rhetoric which has begun to hijack my religion. In the aftermath of the Orlando massacre, most Christian voices fell into two categories: vile hate mongers spewing all sorts of false accusations against Muslims and screaming condemnation of the LGBT community, and the much smaller group of people like Hugh Hollowell.
I refuse to give the hate rhetoric any more air time so you will find no links from me. But I do want those people who have felt the sting from those voices to know this–they do not represent the Christian God of love. They do not model the example of Christ we find in the Gospels. Their words and actions come out of their own twisted fear-filled hearts. They have no business claiming to speak for God. While we need to figure out how to love them as well, we want you to know right now–there are gay and straight Christians alike who love you, who will support you in whatever ways we can, and who stand with you both in your anger and in your grief. Please, forgive us for not doing more, sooner.
One last group of people need to be mentioned: the silent majority. In his post, Hollowell offers six guidelines to Christians who do not want to be counted among the hate mongers. I recommend you read this post and apply his wisdom to your life. Remaining on the sidelines with our mouths shut should no longer be an option. Being ugly and spreading fear never was. You do not need to know someone from the LGBT community or even agree with them on any topic in order to have a voice about the immorality of hate. The time has come to speak out. Period.