What happened in Orlando in the early hours of Sunday morning was so horrible that it is hard to believe that people have been arguing about it – surely the only reaction is to pray for those killed and to mourn yet another example of how evil stalks this world. I admired the joint statement from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York:
“After Sunday’s attack in Orlando as Christians we must speak out in support of LGBTI people, who have become the latest group to be so brutally targeted by the forces of evil. We must pray, weep with those affected, support the bereaved, and love without qualification.
“The obligation to object to these acts of persecution, and to support those LGBTI people who are wickedly and cruelly killed and wounded, bereaved and traumatised, whether in Orlando or elsewhere, is an absolute call on our Christian discipleship. It arises from the unshakeable certainty of the gracious love of God for every human being.
“Now, in this time of heartbreak and grief, is a time for solidarity. May God our Father give grace and comfort to all who mourn, and divine compassion to us all.”
It was so sad to see people seeming to argue about whether it was a homophobic attack or an Islamist one – as though in some way it could not be both. The murderer clearly intended to target LGBTI people – that was why he went to that club. He had pledged his loyalty to ISIS, and clearly thought that what he was doing was in line with its policies of slaughtering the innocent – the only thing he was right about.
A few friends, knowing I am a Christian, asked me what it was about religion that inspired such hatred of gay people? I answered that it was not religion, but misinterpretations – anyone who believes God wants them to kill other people needs help – and urgently.
It is certainly true that among Christians on the internet, few issues cause more vitriol than homosexuality, but as I have a post on that one coming up tomorrow, I don’t want to trespass there today.
What is sad is the predictable nature of some of the reactions. Anti-gun law people cry ‘ban guns’ (ignoring the fact the murderer worked for a security firm and would have been able to get the guns anyway); the LGBTI lobby insist it was about killing gays, and don’t seem to want to address Islam; the Right wonder why Obama was so reluctant to talk about Islam and are reluctant to address the issue of gays. If we are to do our duty as Christians, we need to acknowledge that this crime encompasses all these things- and more.
Has the language Christians have used about LGBTI people always been what it should have been? Don’t, please, say ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’, because if that is true of you, you are either immensely insensitive or have never belonged to a despised minority and been made to feel it. What happened in Orlando was an affront to our common humanity. That anyone can come into contact with any religion and feel it drove them to this is a sign of what we, as Christians, know – the devil prowls around this world looking for ways to harm us. Let us oppose hate with love.