“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV)
So I decided to skip the verses that are in the daily devotional that I use for today, and I turned to one of the most comforting verses in Scripture for me, the one quoted above when Jesus promises a peace that the world cannot give. By now you’ve probably heard about the deadly shooting in Orlando, Florida, where a lone gunman with an assault rifle managed to kill 50 people and injure more than 50 others. The attack occurred at one of the premier gay clubs in the Orlando area and was carried out by a Muslim man who apparently called 9-1-1 during the attack and pledged allegiance to ISIL. This has lead to a furious firestorm on social media and news outlets with people arguing over whether this was a hate crime, a terrorist attack, or just another mass shooting in a nation plagued by such events.
In reality, it is all three. The patrons of this club were certainly targeted for their sexual orientation. More and more information seems to be coming out suggesting that while the shooter was not formerly associated with ISIL or any other terrorist group, his actions seem to have been motivated by the ideology. Then of course this man was able to buy weapons used in this attack in just the last week, taking advantage of our lax gun laws to obtain the tools used to perpetrate this atrocity.
The thing is, none of these arguments really do anything for the victims. The platitude of “thoughts and prayers” really doesn’t do anything for them either. In fact, I’d probably wager that most folks who toss out “thoughts and prayers” after something like this probably move on with their thoughts fairly quickly and probably don’t offer more than a token prayer for the victims so that they can feel that they did their duty.
Shouldn’t we be over that at this point? Is it any wonder that people are starting freak out when they hear someone offer “thoughts and prayers?” It’s literally the most useless thing any of us can say or do.
The verse listed above from John comforts me when I read about things like this, but I highly doubt it would be all that comforting to a mother who lost her son in that shooting. It’s time we dispensed with religious platitudes and actually tried to live our faith, and our faith looks like Jesus.
Jesus called simple people to follow him and spread his message.
Jesus advocated the use of non-violent, subversive methods to respond to oppression.
Jesus condemned violence and vengeance.
Jesus stood with the “sinner” and outcast against the religious elite of his day.
Jesus told us to love our enemies.
Jesus called peace-makers the “children of God.”
Jesus surrendered his life instead of calling down destruction on his enemies.
Isn’t it past time that we started following his example in these and other areas? Maybe instead of condemning our gay neighbors or our Muslim neighbors we should be looking for ways to stand with them and serve them. Maybe it’s time to make sure the doors of our churches are open to people who are physically and emotionally affected by these tragedies and literally offering them sanctuary. It’s definitely past time that we pile pressure on our elected representatives (most of whom claim to be Christians) telling them to stand up for peace and victims and against the merchants of weapons and death.
Yes, it’s past time for all of that, but I fear that none of it will happen. Instead we’ll all argue about it on Twitter for a few days, post a few well meaning blogs (like this one), and then it will fall by the wayside because our leaders are cowards who take money from the gun industry to protect it’s business. Make no mistake, these events are good for the gun business. A bunch of people will get scared, and then they’ll read that big, bad, Obama is gonna take their guns, then they’ll go buy more guns and more ammo all the while repeating “from my cold, dead, hands” like some kind of deranged mantra dedicated to the true god of the United States: The Gun. For these guys, the Holy Trinity in the USA is “The Dollar, The Gun, and the Holy Bullet.”
But whatever happens, the people of Christ can still reach out to victims of these and other acts, hopefully making an impact and showing that we’re not all dedicated to the preservation of violence and oppression. I urge all of you not just to pray, but to pray earnestly, and maybe even employ a discipline like a fast. Don’t just do that, act. Contact your representatives. Look for ways that you can reach out to people who are troubled by all of this. Just a few minutes of listening might help a person feel more at ease. Along with all of that, make this, the Prayer of St. Francis, part of your own prayer, discipline, and desire in the coming days: