With numb silence Sunday I ogled news reports and social media sites. My fingers merely scrolling, not typing, as I couldn't take in enough. I made a few awkward posts but there was something naggingly embarrassing about doing "life as usual". For dozens of others, life was traumatically altered when a gunman entered Pulse nightclub and unleashed hell. Somehow, posting a funny meme or selfie just seemed, well, wrong. To flippantly bypass the death and woundedness was unconscionable to me.
I don't venture into the political or controversial realms in my writings. I intentionally chose a different tack several years ago and I've stuck to it. But I feel something deep and very personal in this. Perhaps it's my way of grieving for those who were brutally murdered, for those wounded and for those who've lost loved ones. Or, maybe it's my way of honoring all of them - people I never met but feel connected to.
As I absorbed headlines and posts my anger was quickly kindled by those who, before the blood was dry, manipulated the tragedy to launch their agenda. Gun Control. Homosexuality. Islam. Mental health. FBI. Justice System. Jihad. All got stage time. I wondered to myself, "Can't we grieve, mourn and cry for just a bit before pointing fingers and shouting out, 'I told you so?’" And can we, both citizens and leaders, finally define the reality in our country and look to real solutions rather than rhetoric, social band aides or inaction?
And so, over the next hours my mind was pinned to the victims of the Orlando nightmare. In those thoughts several things surfaced. You may not agree with me and I'm okay with that. This issue is very complex.
As long as there have been people on earth there have been those who advance their ideologies by destroying others. Every religion and philosophy has mutated followers who refuse to see themselves as part of the human collective. For some it’s inked in their writings. They're aggressors who prey on the innocent, unwitting and benign in order to gain an advantage or proliferate their beliefs. This may have been normative thousands of years ago, but in 2016 it shouldn’t be. It is a real and current threat we must acknowledge. The Scriptures say, very clearly, that every human, without exception, is made in the image of God and is loved by God (Genesis 1:26-27; John 3:16). Whether they are gay or straight, Muslim, Jew, Christian or not, everyone reflects the divine, in part. Why is this not honored? Why? Because we have a heart problem of sin more than anything else. This shooting was senseless and evil because it rejected the image of God and exchanged it for a bullseye.
In my years of counseling people I've come to be fully aware that there are a lot of hurting people. In fact, I would go as far to say that everyone at some time in their lives will face deep mental anguish, whether for long or short. So many are mentally hurting - daily wrestling with personal demons. The grace of Jesus calls to everyone who is weary and burdened to find rest for their souls (Matthew 11:28-30). Unless there are loving places and opportunities for people to be made whole and freed, our problems will not cease. We will, individually and collectively, continue to go from bad to worse. And those who grapple with mental illness need significant care and guarding lest they harm themselves or others.
I'm older than some, younger than most. I've seen America slip into greater and deeper disarray. We are more fractured than I can remember. Part of why I live is to foster reconciliation. I'm not always successful, but sometimes I am. I've seen so little from our leaders to truly bring this nation's people together; we're excelling in the Us verses Them competition! Until we, the people, hold our elected officials to a higher moral standard, where integrity, honesty and respect are seen, our hopes for a truly United Republic are pretty dismal (Psalm 10:13). We can't separate morality from politics (Luke 6:45). When our candidates spend more time bashing and slashing than offering solution-sided answers, when integrity gets tossed out the window for achievement and conquest, when the ends justify the means and people are used and discarded, my hope dwindles. But that's what seems to sell these days. There was a dream that was America, but it seems so fractured now. Buckle up, it only seems to be getting worse.
"The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." ~ Luke 6:45
I do believe the Second Amendment affords people the right to own firearms. I do believe that a gun is not a weapon until utilized as one, in the same way a shoe is just a shoe. I believe everyone has the right to defend themselves and others when confronted with evil. Orlando was evil. I believe limiting magazine capacities is like peeing on a camp fire. Anyone mildly proficient can exchange a mag in two seconds. I've seen it done in a fraction of one! And whether it's black or pink, semi auto or manual, a person who wants to do harm will find a way. It comes down to the person.
However, the ability to legally purchase a gun and walk out with 500 rounds of ammo that day needs closer scrutiny, given our current culture. It wasn't an issue before, it never should've been, but it is now. We have to admit that significant action must be taken given our societal schisms, emotional turmoil and holy war enthusiasts.
These four things create a diabolical cocktail. As I jokingly say, "It's like putting nitro and glycerine together". Addressing just one will not solve the problem. Unless rational, intelligent, and Constitutionally-based actions are taken the, "I told ya so" people will rise again. We might not like what we see and we might not be completely thrilled with what needs to be done, but something significant, expansive and real must take place.