Early Sunday morning on June 12, Omar Mateen walked into Orlando, Florida’s premier gay bar and nightclub, Pulse, and gunned down the entire club, killing 50 and wounding 52 more. The event turned into a hostage situation for about 3 hours before police entered the club and killed Mateen. In a moment, 50 lives were taken, 52 lives were damaged, and millions of lives were thrown into disarray, shock, confusion, heartbreak and anger.
I’m not at all concerned in this post about whether or not Mateen was influenced by or affiliated with ISIS. I’m not at all concerned about whether president Obama considers this an attack by a “radical Islamist”. I’m not at all concerned about gun control or whether the FBI dropped the ball on it’s prior investigations of Mateen. What I am concerned about is the church and our response to this tragic incident.
In the initial hours and days after this news came to light, I was encouraged by the fact that, in comparison to past events of a similar nature, there was very little insensitivity that was broadcasted on social media. I’m sure Twitter and Facebook saw it’s fair share of hate-filled rhetoric, but for the most part, everybody was civil. I think this was in large part due to the encouragement of many Christian leaders to not give in to hate:
But here is where the rub is: as grateful as I am for these and many other prominent Christian voices, it strikes me as odd that instead of being able to share sentiments of compassion and mourning, these Western Church leaders saw the need to instead try and sway the general attitude of the church away from hate, fear, and politics, as if those are the typical de-facto responses from American Christians when these types of tragedies occur.
…because those are the typical de-facto responses from American Christians when these types of tragedies occur.
It says a lot about the church that her general response to this tragedy has been one of love, compassion, and mourning. And I’m so thankful and grateful to see my newsfeeds filled with declarations of love and support for those affected by this. But it also says a lot about the church when you consider the great deal of pre-emptive damage control that her leaders had to engage in to elicit this kind of response.
Let it be known, homosexuals and the transgendered are not excepted from the list of those that are created in the image of God. They are living, breathing human beings with minds, wills, emotions, and are equipped with the capacity to love and to dream and to desire the good and well-being of those around them. This simple fact necessarily imbues homosexuals and the transgendered with a beauty, dignity, and value that far exceeds anything else in all creation. This value is not diminished by any sins that they engage in—not one iota. So in the event of a tragedy where human lives are lost, it is a shame when the church judges the weight of that tragedy by the sins of those involved rather than the inherent worth and dignity that each person carries as an image-bearer of God. Our response to tragedy, first and foremost, should always be to grieve at the destruction of the glory of God that is inherent in every single human being, not to try and turn the victims and those we consider less holy than us into political talking points.
We can be a source of hope and refuge for the LGBT community. We can be a safe place for those struggling with sexual sin and temptation. We can be the image of Christ that homosexuals and the transgendered desperately need. But we can’t be this if we scoff at their suffering and minimize their pain by knee-jerking to discussions of gun control, radical islam, and judgment whenever this community suffers harm. To prevent these kinds of reactions we need to start seeing the LGBT community as people, just like you and I. When we see each person as they rightly are, fearfully and wonderfully made, bearing the image of God, we will default to weeping with those who weep and mourning with those who mourn.