Last weekend marked a horrific tragedy. It feels terribly close to home: I used to live less than three miles from the location of Orlando terrorist attack.
It also feels terribly confusing. What led this man to commit this outrage? News reports tell conflicting stories. Either he was a gay regular at Pulse, or (according to his father) he was outraged at seeing two gay men kissing. (Or both.) His motivation might have been ISIS-inspired terrorism from the beginning, or he might have merely added that to his message at the end.
Is Christianity To Blame?
The confusion is multiplied by claims that Christianity is to blame. As Michael Brown reports at The Stream, one commentators have has that “anti-LGBTQ theology assisted in helping others, including the Orlando shooter, in seeing each of our precious LGBTQ lives as dispensable and worthy of death.” Another response: “The LGBTQ community is merely being targeted first because it represents the most visible form of resistance to [Christofascist] authority.” Neil Macdonald, writing for CBC (Canada) wrote, “organized religion must reflect on helping shape a culture that will this week have led to 50 funerals in Florida. It’s not just the extremists who want to deprive gays of human rights.”
What Messages Are Your Kids Hearing On This?
Are they right? Do we share some of the blame? Maybe the answer seems obvious to you. Is it equally clear to your children? What messages are they hearing on YouTube and social media? Do you know?
Clear thinking is more important now than ever. It’s not the only important thing. Grief, mourning, and sympathy come first at a time like this. They came first in my response. This explanatory blog post follows a prayer (which I wrote, though my name is not on it this time) and a call to living lives of truth, love, and grace. I didn’t begin with the controversy.
A Clear Message In Response
Others have failed to exercise that kind of restraint. They’ve pointed fingers at Christianity for this attack. They’re multiplying the confusion for their own purposes. Therefore, since they brought it up, we do have to address the controversy. You and your kids need clarity on it. It’s time for critical conversations on Orlando. Here are a few thoughts to begin with:
- There are indeed some hateful people who claim to be Christians. They’re what I call “smug religionists,” assuming religious superiority over all others. Jesus encountered smug religionists, too — the Pharisees — and rebuked them. They’re not his followers. If they were, they’d follow him. It’s that simple.
- Christians should have the strongest reputation for standing up against any kind of anti-LGBT violence. I wrote in Critical Conversations,
Look up “LGBT bullying” and the Internet, and you will be flooded with tragic stories of students contemplating or committing suicide, dropping out of school, and more. Your teen can show the love of Christ by standing up for those who are being pushed around. In the Bible, the usual word for “pushed around” is oppressed, but it’s the same idea, and God is always on the side of those who suffer that way. That doesn’t mean he sides with everyone’s moral choices. It does mean that he hates the strong picking on the week. Christian teens should have the strongest reputation in school for standing up against anti-LGBT bullying.
If that’s true for bullying in school, how much more true is it of deadly violence anywhere in our cities?
- Straight (non-LGBT) Christianity is hardly to blame for the actions of a reportedly gay man pledging allegiance to a Muslim group opposed to both Christianity and homosexuality.
- As I detail in chapter 2 of Critical Conversations, gay activism has a history of dishonestly manipulating the media to portray gays as victims and Christians as victimizers. LGBT activists have a vested interest in making us feel guilty for criticizing them.
- The truth about marriage and morality is bound to be uncomfortable for those who want to follow different paths; but God’s truth isn’t just a hard wall around our behavior, it’s a guide to walking a good path. It’s good to follow his ways. It’s good to encourage other people — always gently, always graciously — to discover the goodness of his ways.
They might disagree. They might even get angry at us for speaking of God’s good ways. We need to be sensitive to that (Col. 4:6). But that doesn’t make his good ways bad.
- Young people (and older ones, too!) need information to help them know just how the Bible’s moral instructions are good. It’s not enough just to say God’s commands are good. It isn’t enough just to say, “The Bible says so.” If they don’t know why the Bible’s instructions are good, in today’s environment they’re likely to think, “Well, then, I don’t like the Bible.”
- As always, parents and pastors, it is absolutely crucial that you talk through these issues with young people. They’re wondering. They’re asking. They’re getting information from all kinds of places. Are they hearing the truth? It’s up to you.
- None of this is easy. Critical Conversations was written to help. It can help you find your way through the fog of confusion — and help you show your kids the way through, too.
Photo Credit: Fibonacci Blue, Flickr, Creative Commons License