Jamey Stuart, Senior Pastor at Believers Church in Chesapeake, wrote a powerful piece on the Orlando massacre, and I asked him to join me to share.
Here’s the complete text he wrote (except the name of the shooter, which I have redacted):
In the early morning hours of June 12, [the shooter] walked into “Pulse” (a nightclub that advertised itself as the “hottest gay bar in Orlando”), murdered 49 people and injured another 53. Very quickly, connections were established that the shooter was, at the very least, inspired by ISIS; the same group that previously inspired the recent workplace shooting in California, the massacre in Paris, the attack in Belgium, as well as the continuing conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
Having something this tragic happen on American soil is shocking and obviously very sad. But, I have been just as shocked in what has happened since the terrible events. I’ve been deeply troubled by the reaction and responses in our national media coverage and sadly, by the reaction of many who call Believers home. Here are some of the most troubling things that I’ve seen/heard:
- It has turned into a LGBT issue. I heard an interview of a gay, Army soldier who had recently returned from deployment; they were asking him about the impact this has had on the gay community. He said he felt safer deployed than he did as a gay American. I thought, “does he even realize that he was deployed to fight against the exact mindset this terrorist acted upon?” It was radical Islam that caused him to be deployed in the first place! Not to mention, didn’t we just observe Memorial Day to remember the THOUSANDS of service men and women who have died in this fight? The very same fight that inspired this attack in Orlando?” I have also seen those, who are part of the gay community, making judgements about people based on whether or not they expressed remorse or sorrow on their Facebook pages. If they didn’t, the inference was they didn’t because they don’t mourn when gay people are killed. We should all be terribly offended by this. When 14 people were killed in San Bernardino at the work place, we didn’t turn it into a story about how people who work are victims of terror. When the attack happened in Belgium, we didn’t say that the airplane riding community needed to unite. Why does everything that happens to us have to be broken down into groups? Why can’t we all just grieve and be shocked that PEOPLE were killed?! Yes, they happened to be gay. That doesn’t make it more traumatic or less! 49 people were killed by someone associated with a group that does hate homosexuals, but they also hate AMERICANS! Aren’t we all Americans? Can’t we all mourn because fellow citizens were tragically killed?
- It has turned into a gun rights issue. Now to be fair, part of this has been driven by certain politicians who seem to take every opportunity to push policies of gun control. I’m all for a vigorous and healthy debate about gun control, but can we all please be a little less reactionary? Can we at least bury the dead before we try to make a point? Whether you are a lifelong NRA member or you believe that the world should be bullet free is not my point, so don’t even bother responding to this post with your opinion on the matter. I don’t care!
- It has turned into a body count issue. It was widely reported that this was the “largest mass shooting in American history” and then I started seeing stories posted all over the place making the correction that the largest mass shooting in American history was actually the “Wounded Knee Massacre” in South Dakota, back in 1890 when 150 Indians were killed by soldiers of the U.S. Army. Really? We’re going to turn this tragedy into a debate about which was worse? Can we all acknowledge whether this was the largest or the smallest or somewhere in between really isn’t the point? 49 Americans died…49. Tragically. They happened to be gay. They happened to have been killed with guns as opposed to a bomb, or an airplane, or some other method of terror. All of that doesn’t really matter, they’re dead.
So, how should we respond?
- Well, first and foremost, instead of hash-tagging everything “pray for Orlando” how about we actually pray for the people of Orlando? Let’s pray our nation. Let’s pray that this tragedy wakes people up to the brevity of life. Let’s pray that the realization of “I could die today” translates into people seriously considering their relationship with God. While we’re at it, let’s pray for our enemies. If God could save me, he can save leaders of ISIS. If terrorists start giving their lives to Jesus much of this craziness ends!
- Then, let’s be the body of Christ to our world. Instead of talking about OUR agendas or OUR political opinions or OUR sexual preference, how about we talk about Jesus and point people to Him? We should INDISCRIMINATELY love those in our community without taking into account their race, sexual orientation or societal status! Maybe if followers of Jesus would love our neighbors in real, practical ways more people would be coming to Jesus?!
- Then lastly, make Jesus #1 in our OWN lives! The #1 reason we post on social media. The #1 reason we say what we say. The #1 reason we do the things that we do. If the world could be transformed by 11 disciples some 2,000 years ago, what would happen if everyone at Believers made it our mission to make Jesus #1, one person at a time? Pretty sure our community would change. See, changed lives can change families; changed families can change communities; changed communities can change our country; AND, a changed country could change the world!
So, let’s stop the stupid.
People died tragically. Needlessly.
People need Jesus. Desperately.
That should be about all there is to say!