Response to Orlando Shooting: Close to Home

Dear Brother and Sister in Christ at Prince of Peace,

Monday morning comes, and we are left speechless.  In the dark of night, in the noisy clamor of the early Sunday morning hours, as a nightclub announces “last call,” a man commits the most deadly round of carnage in this country’s history.

Sure, we have experienced bombings and hijackings that have taken many lives, destroyed dreams and shocked us into permanent changes in our travelling habits.  Images forever remain in our memories.  Temporary memorials have been replaced by permanent places of remembrance, extravagant and simple.

But now after multiple shootings—from an army base to high schools, a small company holiday party to an elementary school and so many more—it has now for us come closer to home.  A nightclub in one of America’s “playgrounds,” Orlando.  Near home.

Frankly, as loved ones and sirens wail, brave law enforcement personnel give their accounts of what and how and when; as we listen to our leaders express condolences yet again and political candidates grope ham-handedly for words that will put them in the best light under such circumstances, we are bereft, numbed by the pain, frustration and helplessness of it all.  We all grieve.

What is the price of freedom?  Perhaps, we are looking at it.  How can our freedoms be tailored to combat such violent outbursts by those who disagree with others leading to anger and then hatred and then the planning and execution of outrageous horrors as we see in an Orlando night club?

We have no answers, no illuminated way through this morass.

What we believe is that leaders have responsibilities.  To seek wise counsel; to be assertive and yet measured; calculating and at times spontaneous; to initiate new approaches and to take what is best of the old ones.

Now is not the time to fan flames of prejudice or blame, political gamesmanship or ego.  But it is the time to recognize again where our unity lies.  Christ Jesus.

We are a congregation of a denomination that is not unlike other groups of Christians in this country and around the world.  Our history as God’s people in Christ spills over with examples in scripture.  We have our differences.

We are going to see and hear all manner of theories pointing out why this tragedy happened.  And we are going to be tempted to stake out our positions, if we are not already fixed like concrete in one already.  Often, we will listen only to commentators who confirm our thinking, as they declare that the heart of the matter is:

  • Islam/radical “jihadists” around the world
  • Hatred of folk in the LBGT community
  • Easily obtained firearms/our Constitution’s Second Amendment
  • Lax immigration laws
  • The disparity among the “haves” and “have nots”
  • A “do-nothing” government
  • Leaders more interested in their own personal interests
  • An unwillingness to let the government do what it needs to do to protect us

We are going to disagree on many things.  In fact, we feel quite certain we already do.  What we must insist upon, however, is that we continue to walk together in the sweet and yet demanding assurance that “as many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, these is no longer male or female; for all are one in Christ Jesus.” [Galatians 3:27-28]

Nothing can change that oneness.  If we decide to live outside that oneness, we are choosing to go against the One in whose name we have been baptized.   In Jesus, the Jew from Nazareth, we worship One who insisted on welcoming the hated and healing the foreigners.  He loved his friends even when they turned on him.  And still he commands them, us, to love as he has loved—even to death.

So what now are we willing to do or not do?  What position that we so carefully have staked out on our “issues” are we willing to re-visit?  What are we willing to give or to give up?  Whom are we willing to befriend and walk with?

Yes, the issues are so complex, demanding much more than sound bites and bumper stickers.  But no matter what we may do, we are first God’s own people, baptized into the living Christ.  And by virtue of that precious gift, we are inextricably bound with brothers and sisters on every side of each issue and boundary all over the world.

So let us march or meet or act or gather for prayer, whatever action we may choose, knowing that are we always are first—one in Christ Jesus.

In God’s great love,
Pr. Joe and Pr. Adam