Orlando is now known for more than Disney World. It has become reluctant host to the largest mass shooting in the history of the United States. This is a dubious distinction for the home of the “happiest place on earth.”
I have been watching the news video of the shooting and reading related news stories. I’ve been looking at Twitter and following some of the Facebook traffic. I never cease to be amazed at how quickly postings can become personal and deteriorate into attacks and questioning of one’s religious beliefs. Then again, it is social media.
We fall into the same cycle of behavior every time this happens. Shock. Anger. Grief. Blame. A Call to Action. Inaction. Calls for “prayers and support for the victims and their families.” This is appropriate and seemingly the best many of us can come up with under the circumstances. Yet, I still find this lacking.
I’m sure this situation will be politicized. I’ve already noticed the presidential candidates weighing in on the shootings. Not too long ago there was a press conference involving the owner of the gun store where the shooter purchased his weapon. The proper background checks were observed, yet the results are painfully obvious to us all.
In this instance, the victims were those in the LGBT community. Last year around this time we were shocked by killings in an African-American church. This type of behavior has become too frequent. Yes, the Orlando shooting was an evil action and the one who carried out this horrific act was filled with hate. He was inspired by ISIS, yet no direct connection can be made to this terrorist group. However, I’m sure they will take credit for his action. The term being used now is that he was “radicalized.” Sadder still is that this was example of “home grown” terrorism.
America seems to have a corner on this kind of mass shootings. I don’t hear too much about this happening in other countries, at least not with the frequency we’ve come to expect. There ought be a way to enact common sense gun control in this country while honoring the second amendment. In my opinion, there are certain types of military style weapons that have no business being accessible to the general public. It will take courageous politicians and government leaders to bring about the changes necessary to bring down the number of mass shootings in this country.
I’m becoming disillusioned that any real change will come because of this situation. I recall the horror of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. Innocent children were made victims. Families grieved the loss then as they do now. If nothing moved us to make significant changes then, it is unlikely to see anything happen now.
There are several examples of gun control legislation brought about in other countries. Change was brought about when the people had had enough with the violence. Perhaps we can keep the discussion on this issue going in this country long enough to see something happen. Yes, it does seem unlikely, but it is possible.
John Howard, former Prime Minister of Australia, offered this rationale for implementing change in his country after they endured a mass shooting: “Australia is a safer country as a result of what was done in 1996. It will be the continuing responsibility of current and future federal and state governments to ensure the effectiveness of those anti-gun laws is never weakened. The U.S. is a country for which I have much affection. There are many American traits which we Australians could well emulate to our great benefit. But when it comes to guns we have been right to take a radically different path.”
As a pastor, I’m always interested in how the church will respond to people in crisis and pain. I hope the hatred directed at the LGBT community in the killing of 50 people will bring about a thoughtful response from Christians. This is a moment for us to come together in a spirit of cooperation and kindness. Let us join together in living out the prayer of St. Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
May our thoughts and prayers truly be with the victims and their families. Let us find that common ground where the common good can be realized. And, may we leave room for the love of Christ to do its transforming work to change hearts and minds.