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Where will we go after Orlando?

June 13, 2016

The mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 and wounding over 50 more, has left our whole society stunned and heartbroken. That one hate-filled person, apparently acting alone, was able to create such carnage is frightening and almost unbelievable. We will be weeping and processing this for a long time.

Where will we go after Orlando?

One possible direction is a new wave of Islamophobia. There may be new calls to ban Muslims from entering the United States. There may be heightened surveillance of all those who practice Islam in the U.S. There may be increasing claims that Islam itself is the problem–that it is a religion inherently at odds with pluralism and democracy.

Let us be honest: worldwide Islam is in a crisis. Violent-prone fundamentalists, who have long been allowed to spread their doctrines, are in contention with moderates and peaceful conservatives and fundamentalists to define Islam. The complete breakdown of order in the Middle East is fueling the violent factions. But this is a crisis that, ultimately, Islam will have to solve. Military force from various nations can hold violent extremists in check, but it cannot resolve the theology of Islam.

Of course, one could make a similar claim about Christianity. It also is in crisis. Here in the U.S. violent-prone fundamentalists have also been allowed to spread their doctrines, contending with moderates and liberals and peaceful conservatives for defining the Christian faith. As a result, American Christians, as a whole, are more supportive of reigning down bombs in civilian areas and the use of torture than American non-Christians! We who call ourselves Christians have to do a much better job of getting our faith back to the faith of Jesus.

Another possible direction we may go after Orlando is reasonable gun control. The right of individuals to bear arms was recently reaffirmed by the Supreme Court. That’s not going to change, and we need to respect that right. But no right is absolute with no restrictions. Voting is also a right, but we allow regulations to insure that voting is done accurately; and it is possible to lose the right to vote.

So it could be that this mass shooting will convince enough Americans that it no longer makes sense for all Americans to have ready access to purchasing semi-automatic assault rifles with high-capacity magazines. Why would any individual require such a weapon except for mass killing? The NRA will doubtless say the answer to mass killings is to have more people with more guns. But surely a safer and saner route is to stop selling weapons that have no legitimate purpose. Will this end mass killings? Of course not. But it seems reasonable to believe there will be fewer.

But I do not believe that either of these directions will likely be the direction we take. There will not be a great rise in Islamophobia, nor will there be meaningful gun control legislation. Instead, I foresee a different direction for our society: deepening sympathy for and commitment to protecting the gay community.

It will not matter whether individual Americans (or Christians) support gay relationships and marriage or not; but I believe we will be united in a commitment to everyone’s right to be who they are with respect and safety. The terrorist shooting in Orlando will do the opposite of what the shooter desired. We will have more compassion and more respect and more unity with LGBTQ persons than we have ever had before.


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One Comment
  1. Carl Mericle permalink

    Well said Ryan.

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