When people in Orlando – where many Americans go to vacation and unplug – are gunned down in cold blood, we all experience a sense of unsteadiness and revulsion. The world seems to be shifting under our feet, and shifting much too fast. In a gay nightclub, a Muslim man took the lives of 49 men and women, most of them gay or lesbian – and all of them created in God’s own image. The shooter paused in the middle of his ravenous slaughter, called 911 and a local T.V. station, and pledged allegiance to ISIS. Regardless of other evil and mixed motives, this was jihad, plain and simple.
The wake of the Orlando tragedy has yielded even more unsteadiness and revulsion. Strangely, or maybe not, Anderson Cooper – whom I tremendously respect as a journalist – fired verbal assaults at Pam Bondi, the Florida attorney general. Bondi had been an outspoken supporter of traditional marriage, you see, and somehow that connected her to Omar Mateen’s hate, bigotry, and murderous acts. I am not making this up. While most of us were stunned and brokenhearted over the Orlando slaughter, evangelical Christians were being accused by the New York Times of being at least semi-accomplices to the “casualties of a society where hate has deep roots.” There were waves of this dangerous and demoralizing sentiment across the nation.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, off the hook.
North Carolina governor Pat McCrory and Texas governor Greg Abbott, under suspicion. Their crime? Wanting to keep bathrooms safe for girls and women. (Which would, I might add, never be a debate under Sharia Law. But that’s for another time.)
How are we to be “strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:9) when the enemy appears to be getting even more and more adept at hiding? Our only hope is the gospel of Jesus. Because of what Christ has done for us in His death and resurrection, even our sadness is marked with a sense of celebration. We can be honest about the legacy of damage and death that sin has left on us and on our world, while at the same time remembering the life-giving grace that claims us by name!
When I consider all the mistakes that I have made in my life, and all the sin that I have allowed and even embraced, I feel paralyzed and ashamed. But when I “fix my eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of my faith” (Hebrews 12:2), I feel hope rising again. Christine Caine writes in Undaunted: “Often the very things that you think have disqualified you are the ones that qualify you to do what God has called you to do.”
In terms of analyzing Orlando, Anderson Cooper is dead wrong. I only wish he understood the theological truth – God’s truth – that both Anderson and I indeed “fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). That would be the beginning of understanding Orlando, and in fact understanding all things.
In the meantime, you and I are called to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). Though we may be deemed insincere in our weeping even before our tears have dried, we weep on.