I’ve heard that a number of times this week, as we all process the terrible mass shooting in Orlando last weekend.
This event causes pain to a number of communities, but no one moreso than the LGBTQ folks everywhere, but especially in Orlando. The club for them wasn’t just a venue for drinking and dancing; it was a zone of safety, where everyone expected them to be just as they were, and they did not have to hide any portion of themselves to fit in.
This was even more especially true for LGBTQ folks of color, especially for “Latinx” – Latinos, Latinas, and those of Hispanic heritage who don’t identify with –o or –a, for whom that evening’s theme made it a really perfect safe place. They thought.
“Pulse” was added to the list as one more among so many places of public accommodation that have been now demonstrated as not safe from a shooting, including movie theatres, the workplace, school, the mall, and even churches and synagogues.
For gay folks where home isn’t especially safe, some of these “third places” have been a source of life – but now …”there is no safe place anywhere.”
There is more than enough blame to go around as social media discussions have made clear: there are lax gun laws, hateful religious speech, mental illness (and failure to provide care), the FBI letting the guy go, and ISIS and all other “radical jihadists,” not to mention one commentator blaming the victims for not fighting back!
But if I withdraw from the debate for a moment I remember what I have learned. Along with whatever blame I or my group may share for what we did or didn’t do that contributed to such hatred and such violence, I must remember how the situation on earth looks to God.
It’s not popular to say so, but Jesus certainly demonstrated that there is a personal source of evil, that this evil being opposes God and everything God loves, and loves it best when we will do his bidding without even crediting him.
The Bible tells us our real enemies are not flesh and blood, but spiritual – the “principalities and powers” as the Apostle Paul put it, in a spiritual realm beyond our senses. Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit came among us he would prove the world wrong about judgment, because in Christ’s death and resurrection it was not people who were condemned, but “the prince of this world.”
Yes, Satan loves our willingness to hate people who are different from us, and he loves it even more if we will couch that hate in religious language. This event was a two-fer for Evil: some blame the gays while others blame the Muslims! He loves the paralysis of our leaders who can’t give up the money that comes from the gun lobby even while people who clearly beat up their family members can get a gun, along with people who are on the no-fly list because they might be terrorists! Satan loves how we like to play at being death-dealers, with video games and movies and shooting ranges all decked up to show us as bad-asses, even dressing up the target to look like the sitting President of the United States, because the gun folks don’t like him. Satan laughs when we spend our money to stock up on MORE guns because any day now the jackbooted thugs are coming for our guns. Seven and a half years and they still haven’t shown up – better buy another one.
Satan also enjoys it when nominal “Christians” get angry when we remind them that Jesus told us to turn the other cheek when our enemy slaps us one time, to get slapped again, or to give up our shirt when a thief takes our coat. When we tell them Jesus said to pray for those who persecute us and to love our enemies, they laugh at us and declare that surely God loves someone who knows how to kill in self-defense. And then they declare as “Christians” their hatred for Muslims, being very sure that God wants them to defeat the Muslims in order to defend the minority Christians in their lands.
Are we so sure that’s God talking? Because Jesus predicted Christians would be hated for loving him, and never gave them a word about self-defense – instead, they as we are promised an eternal home and that one day Jesus would make all things new. This world is our place of witness, and there is no safe place.
No, there is no safe place here. We are however already safe in the hand of God. We have “already died” in Christ and we have “already” been seated in the heavenlies with him, too – our place there is reserved. In this world we are merely ambassadors, sent with a message of reconciliation to everyone else from God. We demonstrate this reconciliation from God by refusing to be anyone’s enemy, since after all our enemies are not flesh and blood!
Therefore it may not be welcome in public spaces right now, but we can even have compassion on the shooter, no matter what confluence of evil suggestions filled him up to the point of carrying out his nefarious deed. We are not his judges; God is. But we also know that God visited all sin on his Son on the cross, even this one. We are not too sure that God’s justice even on him may be grace.
And may there yet be grace on all who in God’s name have visited hatred on gays, and on Muslims…hatred and “walls” just makes for militants. If God is love, why did we think it was up to us to decide who is not invited? It pleases the devil when we thrust a hand in someone’s face rather than hold out a hand in introduction.
No, there is no safe place here.
We weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn. And sigh because knowing that it is Evil personified at work, doesn’t make it any better. Knowing that the devil is defeated is nice but with all humanity we cry out, come Lord Jesus, come – come and make all things new. Come and make a safe place in a new heavens and a new earth. We have made such a mess of this one.