Dealing with complexity in the aftermath of tragedy


The massacre of 49 persons at a gay nightclub in Orlando has produced in many of us a wave of sadness — a deep sadness. Every person is a child of God, and we have now lost 50 of those children -- the victims and their assailant.

To that sad truth is added another sadness. The killer acted out of some kind of allegiance to a terrorist group that claims a religious faith. Most of us, including most Muslims, do not have such a faith. Christian faith, thankfully, moves us to love all persons, especially those with whom we disagree. Jesus said:

“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:27-31).

One of our challenges in facing such heinous acts is our tendency to over-simplify the complexities of life. We do it all the time.

The political process does it by pushing a party, as if there are only two possible approaches to the plethora of issues we face.

Religious life does it by pushing a denomination, as if there are only a few basic choices to be made in regard to theology and practice — Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, and on and on, and that’s just the Christian groups.

The truth of the Orlando massacre is that it is more complex than people simply being pro-LGBTQ or anti-LGBTQ and pro-Muslim or anti-Muslim. One can believe a LGBTQ lifestyle is not God’s ideal and still love, care for, and protect LGBTQ persons. Likewise, one can believe Islam to be a misguided religion and still understand that the vast majority of Muslims have no inclination to be terrorists. One can also believe that the Islamic State must be opposed without believing that all Muslims are the enemy; they are not.

Jesus called us to love God with all of our being and to love our neighbor as ourselves. He then went on to define “neighbor” as anyone in need, even those who seem most different from us. This is the core of what it means to live a Christian life. It provides a foundation by which we can love those in the LGBTQ and Muslim communities. Our nation will have to deal with its enemies, but Christians can surely love our neighbors.