When tragedy strikes, I often find myself praying that God would have mercy. That is my default because I just don't have the words to deal in the moment. But the tragedies have become so common that the Kyrie Eleison is often followed by the pressing question, "How long?" How long are schools and movie theaters, churches and clubs going to be turned into killing fields. How long will this suffering continue, God?
And I wonder if God's reply is a simple "How long indeed?"
Orlando roughly a year after Charleston. A man walked into a gay club and, filled with hatred, killed 50 people. 50 people. 50 people who had hopes and dreams. 50 people who were loved by family and friends. 50 people who served in their community. 50 people who were cherished by God. It is the worst mass shooting in a nation where mass shootings are sickeningly common. 50 people. It makes me want cry, punch something, and throw up.
People immediately try to diagnose. Politicians and social media partisans start pointing fingers. It's this or it's that. For crying out loud, it is guns. In this case, it is terrorism. Both are complicated issues, but steps can be taken with both as well. It doesn't have to be an either/or situation. We are wasting lives arguing about it.
And it's a hatred problem. As much as it annoys the crap out of me when Christians respond to these tragedies with "It's not a gun problem, it's a sin problem," it is a sin problem too. But let's not be vague about it. It is the sin of hatred aimed at a specific group of people. Homophobia and transphobia run deep in this country. The way which we talk about LGBTQ individuals is often deplorable. Just this past week, a random woman referred to these people as "perverts" in front of my three year old son.
The American church needs to confess that they have been at the center of much of that hatred. Maybe it has not been as crassly expressed as that lady last week, but it has been in ways that crush the soul. People have been kicked out of families and churches. They have been told that they are abominations that God hates. They have been made to feel broken and less than human. And this weekend, they have been attacked and murdered.
Someone might be quick to point out that a Muslim committed this atrocity in Orlando. That is true. But Jesus once said that hatred is like murder. Fear and hatred, be it overt or passive, creates a climate of fear and hatred. The church needs to sit and listen to their LGBTQ brothers and sisters. We need to mourn with them and love them. I imagine they feel unsafe. They feel hated. And then the church needs to think deeply about how we treat and talk about our neighbors. I have mentioned before that I have come to a place of affirmation for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Yet even if a Christian cannot go that far, they need to seriously examine how they might be contributing to a world of hatred; a world where one of God's children is made to feel like they are not.
"How long indeed?"
God asks us that questions because we're not supposed to just sit here and wait for rescue. We are called to be lights in a dark world. In times like this we can feel helpless, but there are things we can do. I don't feel incredibly confident in my answers. There is so much more we could do that have not even been touched. And in the same way that hatred and fear creates such a climate, I sincerely believe that love can do the same. I have to. So let us not waste time and lives. Let us act and let us love. And may God have mercy.