It isn’t fair to the Orlando victims or their families to just consider this a random act of terrorism or one of far too many mass shootings. Sadly, there are so many mass shootings and acts of terrorism that they’re going to be lumped into and, all-in-all, forgotten as we fail as a society to work together to reflect on why this is happening here and what do we need to do to reduce and hopefully end it.
The victims and their families are in my prayers.
I’ve read folks saying, basically, prayers don’t matter and that’s only a cop-out to make myself feel better. I’ll grant hearing “thoughts and prayers” from NRA-supported politicians is pretty pathetic. John Scalzi covers this pretty well.
For me, my faith and belief system forms the foundation of my world view. I believe we are a spiritual people that have a connection to a higher being with prayer being the venue for exploring that connection.
My prayers are not a half-second thought or even just a “God, bring comfort to these people” moment. My prayers for Orlando—the murdered, their families and friends, the responding officers, the broader LGBTQ community, the murderer, the Muslim community, our nation and our political leaders—are on multiple levels.
Yes, part of that prayer is asking God to be present in this situation and for the people involved to seek love. Part of that prayer is critical self-reflection on how do we as a people and how do I as a person need to respond.
I believe that God is love, the font of mercy and justice, the one we are crafted from and destined to return to. The latest I read doubted the murderer was religious, just a homophobic bigoted asshole. That said, religion has played a role in hate and shockingly still does. How do we, as a religion, and as religious individuals, need to respond not only to the victims in a compassionate way—which is still good, needed, and required of us—but also form ourselves and our practices to ensure we are not creating an environment that fosters disgusting hatred. What could we do better to make beyond clear that hatred has no place within our communities?
Yeah, I know. I’m Catholic. I am not under any illusion that the Catholic Church is gay-friendly. This is something we must do better. “Hate the sin, not the sinner.” The more I think about that line, the more it is a disservice to everyone. Hate has no place here.
The Catholic Church is celebrating a “Year of Mercy” this year. Rome commonly declares a year for something every so often when there are special thematic elements to remind the whole church of that piece of our tradition. “Hate the sin, not the sinner” puts the focus both on the sin and hate (as the subject which is acted upon and the action verb) and a passing reference to the sinner without any clear direction of the action toward that subject—are we to ignore the sinner?, outcast the sinner?, somewhat kinda tolerate the sinner?, try to “reform” the sinner?, love the sinner?
No, instead, we should love each other. We’re all sinners, so there’s no need to even say that we should love the sinner. We can equally say “love everyone”, “love people”, “love all humans”. God is love and the font of mercy. If we start with love, we can act with mercy to those we interact with that we don’t agree with, don’t understand, or seem “different”, in some way in far greater and more beautiful ways than if we begin with hating the sin.
I have no interest in rehashing sexual theology today. This is more primal than that. We are all different than each other in some way and, in the end, I trust that the vast, vast majority of humanity are good people trying to do their best in the world as they understand it and to each other.
Too often, religious folks understand this to be combative. “My way is right, thus your way is wrong, and that’s the end of it. You’re weird and you’re different and that ain’t right.”
No, we need to stay focused on love and mercy. “Your way is different? Alright, well, I might not understand it or I might not agree with it, but I still love you. We can find common ground, we can be friends.” We’re all different in some way. For my Catholics, none of us could possibly fully live up to the Christian ideal and we all need love, mercy, and forgiveness ourselves constantly. Who are we to withhold that same love and mercy that we profess and need ourselves?
We don’t need to become the same. We don’t need everyone to agree with us in order to act out of a position of love. In fact, our faith demands that that we love unconditionally. We fail to do that far, far too often.
Back to the point, when I say I’m praying for everyone in Orlando, I’m not trying to make myself feel better for a few minutes or offloading the work to a deity that isn’t known for making grand obvious gestures. I am processing it, seeking inspiration on what I can do to make a difference, and offering to them my respect.