After the recent mass shooting at The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, I felt the same weary emotions come over me that I experienced after Newtown, Chattanooga, San Bernandino, Charleston, & Paris. Oh no! Not Again! What in the world can we do!
The immediate details only made the situation seem more hopeless. A lone wolf killer. How can you ever stop something like that?
I also remembered that though the attacks that affect me the most are the ones that most closely impact the culture in which I live, there have been many more attacks around the world in all too recent memory. Depending on your definition of a terror attack, some sources estimate that our world has experienced as many as 8 terror attacks per day for the past 45 years.
Lord, have mercy! Christ, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!
Though it is hard to make sense of the attack in Orlando right now, past experience teaches us that violence isn’t senseless. Violence is evil, perverted, and warped. But it is not senseless. As we learn more, we will be able to make sense out of what has happened and we will discover that we are not helpless in the face of violence.
Making Sense of the Senseless
One of the challenges in our attempt to make sense immediately of the Orlando shooting is that it doesn’t appear to be caused by just one thing.
- Was it an attack on the LBGTQ community? Yes.
- Does it have to do with someone suspected of terrorist ties having easy access to high-powered weapons? It appears so.
- Is this the case of a young man becoming dangerously influenced by Islamic extremist rhetoric? Yes.
- Was this young man gay and perhaps acting out of self-hatred stemming from a sexual orientation that he could not reconcile with his worldview? Quite Possibly.
- Did law enforcement officers courageously risk their lives to save others? Yes. We will learn anything from this attack that will help law enforcement in their response in the event of another attack? Perhaps we will.
- Do we all need training for how to respond in the event we are ever in a location where a mass shooting is taking place? Most likely.
In the weeks and months ahead, I think we will find out much more than we currently know about the motivations and specific circumstances of this dreadful attack. This forthcoming information will help us make sense of what has happened so that we can work together in our communities to prevent similar instances in the future.
While no response to such an attack is perfect, as more details become available perhaps a unified response will become clear as well. (Remember how lawmakers from both sides of the aisle worked together to pass helpful legislation in South Carolina following the Charleston attack on black Christians.)
What You Can Do Now
In the meantime, here’s my advice: Since this wasn’t about just one thing, focus on doing your thing.
If you have a connection to the Orlando community through which you can offer direct support to those affected by the attack, take advantage of it and help others do the same. If you can help promote compassion and acceptance for the LBGTQ community in your locality, do that. If you want to engage in the debate over the proper role of guns in our country, go for it. If you can develop friendships with Muslims in your town who abhor violence just as much as you do, don’t hesitate to do so. If you think we need a more developed understanding of how radicalization occurs, study it more for yourself and then help educate others. If you are in law enforcement and you live each day wondering if you will be called to respond to such a situation, continue to vigilantly study the best strategies for prevention and preparedness.
Or maybe the best thing you can do is go home, hug your family a little tighter and help make your home more peaceful. Maybe it is to coach that little league team and help each of them feel cherished and challenged. It could be to prepare for August when you’ll have a diverse group of students enter your classroom and you will be the one charged with helping them appreciate one another. Perhaps your role is to invite that neighbor of a different religion, sexual orientation, or political persuasion over for dinner.
But whatever you do, make sure that you do not do the one thing that Omar Mateen most assuredly did before he took innocent lives: he dehumanized them. At some point, he decided that the people at the Pulse nightclub were less than human. In time, we will learn more about why he dehumanized them. Right now, we can commit to not dehumanizing or demonizing others in our small spheres of influence.
As a Christian, I believe in demons. I even believe in demon possession. I just don’t believe in demonizing others. When we dehumanize or demonize others, we end up hopeless because we find ourselves living in a world where when we look around we find the world to be filled with a small number of demonic evil actors trying to destroy life and a large number of idiots who disagree with us about the solution.
But that’s not what the world is filled with. While our world certainly has its demons, the world is also filled with teachers giving their lives for students, coaches building up character in their players, prayer warriors praying, neighbors eating with neighbors, families growing together, politicians truly searching for solutions, law enforcement officers who would do anything to protect and serve, and people committed to the teachings of an ancient Jewish rabbi who taught that everyone is a neighbor.
So whatever you do: do it in love. And one more thing, before you do it, read the names below of the people killed in the Orlando shooting. Say a prayer for them. And then go live out the goodness of life that was so unfairly taken from them.
Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old
Amanda Alvear, 25 years old
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old
Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old
Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
Cory James Connell, 21 years old
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old
Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
Frank Hernandez, 27 years old
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old
Kimberly Morris, 37 years old
Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old
Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old
(These were the names listed on the City of Orlando’s website as victims of the Pulse shooting as of July 16, 2016.)