I wasn’t in Orlando over the weekend. Most people weren’t. Those who were are now engaged in wading through the physical, emotional, and spiritual mess of facing another in our long and growing line of “ground zeros.” To be sure, this won’t be the last. And, to be honest, outside of knowing a few facts, I’m not really sure about the whys and whats of Saturday night’s massacre at the Pulse Nightclub. Here’s what I think I can be reasonably certain about at this point. . .
- A heavily-armed man opened fire in the Pulse nightclub, killing 50 human beings and wounding 53 more.
- Hundreds of first responders entered quickly into a mind-boggling and what’s sure-to-be a trauma-inducing and life-changing scenario.
- The lives of thousands of individuals and families have been changed in an instant through an act of human depravity. And just like when human depravity first visited this planet, the result is widespread chaos, a permanently altered landscape, and death.
- This is not the way it’s supposed to be.
Less than twenty-four-hours have passed since I first heard the news about what happened at the Pulse Nightclub. With each minute that’s passed, my head spins a little bit more. . . especially as I read the growing mountain of social media blabber. . . most of it occasioned by the ongoing news media (mediated) blabber coming from news outlets spanning the political and ideological spectrum.
Tracking with this reminds me of what I saw and felt back in 1999 in the wake of the Columbine massacre. I remember the numbness. There was a desire to connect all the dots and answer all the unanswered questions, but that was an impossibility. Just like in 1999, my spinning and not-so-sorted-out and painfully-incomplete thoughts are front-and-center this morning. As a Christian, I believe that as followers of Jesus we can always do better in our response. Honestly, much of the criticism sent our way is well deserved. We do a poor job of following the Jesus we say we follow. I have no idea if what I’m trying to sort out as a matter of personal introspection will be helpful to you or not, but here goes. . .
- First and foremost, 50 individuals made by God in the image of God are no longer drawing breath. Fifty-three more are in various states of physical brokenness. More than anything else, we should be asking God to fill us with a sense of compassion. . . the kind that weeps with those who weep and that mourns with those who mourn. We should be praying for the wounded and for the families/friends of the dead.
- We must be praying for the first-responders and health-care providers. We can’t even begin to imagine the job they must be facing today. And, we must be praying for the Christian community in Orlando as they mobilize to serve Christ by serving those in need.
- If we ourselves are not feeling pain and heartache over this, then we we need to be praying for ourselves. Let’s be honest, this is a very real possibility. This did not happen in my neighborhood. As far as I know, none of the victims are people I know. Add to that the desensitization that comes with the increased regularity of these things and the non-stop news coverage, and we ourselves can become numb. Let me be honest. . . I know that I am not feeling the depth of heartache that I once felt over things like this. . . and that concerns me. That’s not who I want to be nor is it who I am called to be. May God fill us with his compassion. Who is our neighbor? Anyone in need. These people are our neighbors.
- Stop jockeying for social media presence. I remember watching the non-stop Columbine coverage. I was almost sickened by the number of people who showed up in Littleton. . . very quickly. . . and who jockeyed for television air time. While it might be unfair for me to question their motives, I have to admit that it seemed like many were there to get camera face-time, to promote themselves, or to further an agenda. Many of them were Evangelical Christians. I remember thinking to myself, “Let Littleton deal with this. Go home!” When I spoke to my friends in Littleton as the dust settled in their community, many of them were angry at the outsiders and their intrusiveness. Their presence was not about helping Littleton, but about promoting themselves. This may sound like a harsh suspicion, but I wonder if the sudden deluge of social media posts that popped up yesterday were more about promoting self and being part of the crowd. . . a kind of”I can’t be left behind in the river of weighing in and getting ‘likes’ for my weighing in.” Sometimes, a quiet and faithful presence is the best way to represent Jesus. I think that sometimes we jump quickly to “say” rather than to “do.”
- Ultimately, we must allow our faith to speak to and inform things that are just way too complex to sort out or understand. When we do, we must begin with the foundations. What kept coming to mind for me last evening was this: “Everything and everyone is broken. All creation groans. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done.”
- Because we live in a broken and fallen world where everything and everyone is not the way it’s supposed to be, our lives will be filled with tension. . . a tension that will increase as we go deeper into the way and will of God while simultaneously allowing the way and will of God to illuminate where we are getting it all wrong. For me, there are multiple tensions woven in and through the realities set forth when Jesus engaged with the woman caught in adultery and the Pharisees who were eager to see her done away with. Truth is, we are all both Pharisees and the woman caught in adultery. There’s the tension that comes when we elevate the sin of others while ignoring/denying our own. There’s the tension that comes with showing the love and compassion of Jesus while recognizing the borders and boundaries He’s placed on humanity. To be clear, anyone who might be tempted to self-righteously write off Orlando as a “they had it coming to them” event should enter into some serious self-examination. To be honest. . . again. . . there have been times in my life when I’ve thought that way about certain individuals and people groups. When I examine myself in the light of the Gospels. . . well. . . shame on me. That’s when Jesus tells me to “Go. And sin no more.”
On Saturday morning, I read David Brooks’ column in our local newspaper. It was titled, “Lets Have a Better Culture War.” As I re-read Brooks’ column this morning post-Orlando, I think he’s on to something when it comes to our lives in the public square. He writes, “The larger culture itself needs to be revived in four distinct ways: We need to be more communal in an age that’s overly individualistic; we need to be more morally minded in an age that’s overly utilitarian; we need to be more spiritually literate in an age that’s overly materialistic; and we need to be more emotionally intelligent in an age that is overly cognitive. . . If public life were truly infused with the sense that people have souls, we would educate young people to have vocations and not just careers. We would comfortably tell them that sex is a fusion of loving souls and not just a physical act. We’d celebrate marriage as a covenantal bond. We’d understand that citizenship is a covenant, too, and we have a duty to feel connected to those who disagree with us.”
I’m going to keep thinking about that as I pray for everyone in Orlando, for my self, and for our collective soul. Lord, help us figure this out. . . . and save us from ourselves.