Confused about the shooting in Orlando? Start with prayer and move to action.

I couldn’t help but keep interrupting our North Broad Leaders meeting on Sunday as I was getting notifications about the deadly massacre that happened in Orlando. This tragedy seems to embody some of the main problems in the U.S.: a terrorist killing 49 people at a queer club in Orlando with a weapon that’s too easy to get. Gun control. Hysteria against Arabs of all kinds. An oppressed group of people who, having won legal rights to marriage, are not safe from harm. I lament with the president, when he says this is an act of terror and hate. I’m heartbroken. I’m in pain. I’m frustrated, sad, and confused. Many others too. Peacemaking seems almost impossible when tragedy strikes, and when it echoes the kind of persecution my own family has experienced, it is personal.

pulse, night club, orlandoAn over-ten-year war against terror has not stopped terror. Legal rights aren’t protecting those they benefit. And the politicians have not organized themselves to make substantive decisions that decrease the likelihood of these incidents. So the law and the state have failed us. Their violence and violence-backed system isn’t working. We don’t find salvation in policy. But who would think that? I’m afraid that the Church has been too neutral about our situation, or worse, it has sided with the violent ones. We don’t need more violence or laws. Even the assault weapons ban mainly regulates aesthetic features; modifying an AR-15 to be nearly fully-auto is easy and legal to do. Furthermore, I think that the addiction to redemptive violence in the U.S. may very well sound the war drums once again, potentially causing disasters like this all over the world.

We need to create the alternative, where Jesus reigns.

Reactivity makes sense to people—in the U.S. mass shootings happen too frequently and it demands action. But it is a confusing time—blame abounds, some are blaming Muslims and other immigrants, others are blaming the Christian Right, and still others are assigning blame to the “political correctness” of the government. Despite the confusion, I hope it is a chance for peacemaking, and not war-making or blame-shifting or just endless lobbying. A chance for Jesus to be known and followed. I don’t have much hope or interest in national unity—although that certainly would help, but I am hoping for a church that is united—united not to protect ourselves, but to be something else and to do something more. And so let us be united in action and in prayer.

mass shootings, 2015, people killedWe need to pray. Nothing happens without this. We prayed on Sunday at all of our sites. Let’s pray more. Pray for forgiveness. Pray for justice. Pray for peace. Pray for the victims. Pray for the perpetrator and his potential network (he claimed to be associated with the IS). Pray for the church to act together and make a demonstration that represents the Prince of Peace, the Great Reconciler, the one bringing us together and not dividing us up. You may even want to pray for reasonable, logical legislation that keeps AR-15s out of people’s hands.

We need our prayer to lead to action.

  • Our congregations need to be safe places for all people—victimized people in the LBGTQ community and stereotyped Arabs. We need to sow seeds of love and not hate. We need to keep loving others like ourselves and keep including everyone else. The Gospel is delivered best incarnationally when its burden is easy and its yoke is light. Being included should be easy among us, even though they have to make laws in the country to make it seem like an option. I think Circle of Hope offers a place like this, and I’m committed to it.
  • We need to act defiantly against evil. Against violence. Against militarization. Against our bought politicians. Our compassion teams offer us a real opportunity for this–see the Circle of Peacemakers.
  • We need to act for oppressed people. For peace. For hope. That means including them in our life and relating to them, for starters.
  • The Church, in general, needs to repent of how it has treated queer people and decidedly made their own sanctuaries unsafe for the same-sex attracted and non-binary people. Lord, have mercy on us.
  • Rather than focusing on sexual preference and orientation, I pray that the church can make a stand against violence: gun violence, terrorism, and state-sanctioned violence.

But I don’t think me sorting through all the politics is the most important action, let’s be the alternative. Let’s do our part in creating an alternative society. Another way is possible and it starts with the Church and the Holy Spirit moving through us.

Is there anything you want to add or say? Feel free to comment here or write to me personally. I think this is one place for some sort of dialogue too—this post is far from “complete.”

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