“But we’re so far from Orlando.” “Nothing ever happens in Albany.”
I haven’t heard either of these two statements locally in the past few days, but that doesn’t mean that some folk aren’t thinking them, aren’t troubled by them. And we need think only of the attack on the Mosque in Corvallis in 2010 and subsequent verbal comments to know that it’s not something that happens far away.
Our hearts, minds and ears are being flooded with commentator’s remarks almost twenty-four hours a day since the early hours of Sunday morning when the night club terrorist attack took place, to the point that we may shut ourselves away rather than be overwhelmed.
Something at the core of Christianity is that we’re all sisters and brothers of Jesus and in Jesus. Therefore, whatever happens, no matter where, no matter to whom, affects the Body of Christ, affects us.
I was struck that on Sunday morning, within hours of the attack in Orlando, we welcomed Frances Ann and Rhonda Lynn into the Body of Christ and into our congregation through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Acting on the Great Commission, we are to ensure that no one fails to have the opportunity to respond to God’s love in Jesus.
Of course, this responsibility we have can take different forms, but all of them have to involve love, welcome, compassion. We start with ourselves, being kind to ourselves; then to every person with whom we come in contact, every day; and on to those whom we may meet only once in our and their lives, and to those of whom we may only hear. To ourselves and everyone else, we are the means to show forth our Lord’s death and resurrection, his compassion, and his acceptance, until he comes again.
I invite you to remember how much you are loved, how much all are loved by God.
The following two reflections may help focus our thoughts on the families of those killed in Orlando, and the people of that city, and also help us consider how we may respond as Jesus’ friends.
“Pray for the repose of the souls who have died,” Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael Curry said in his video message, found at this link.
The second reflection is part of what Frederick Schmidt wrote. He is an Episcopal priest on the faculty of Garrett-Evangelical Theological School in Chicago.
3 Things Religious Leaders Can Do in the Wake of the Massacre in Orlando
June 13, 2016
by Frederick Schmidt
For faith leaders the central question has to be, “What kind of country do we want to nurture, and what kind of relationship between religious points of view do we want to encourage in face of threats like this?”
The bare outline of an answer to those questions, it seems to me, include these observations:
One: The safety, freedom, and dignity of all people must be safeguarded.
Regardless of the diversity and difference in positions that people may take on faith and practice, the freedom to make those choices must be safeguarded.
From a Christian point of view, that freedom is rooted in our conviction that God does not coerce us to respond in a particular way, but invites us to examine our lives in conversation with the work of God’s grace. In civic terms that conviction is rooted in the separation of church and state, which safeguards freedom of religious expression, but does not compel us to comply with a particular body of religious commitments.
In the wake of the events in Orlando, religious leaders must continue to speak out in defense of that freedom and the safety that should accompany that freedom, even as they speak in favor of their own faith commitments.
Anyone who insists on conformity in practice and faith and enforces that kind of conformity with verbal or physical violence, risks everyone’s freedom, including their own.
Two, knowing that no religious tradition is utterly uniform in its faith and practice, we should avoid generalizing about “all” members of any tradition. In this case that truth is particularly important as it applies to Islam and to Muslim attitudes toward homosexuality and violence, but the same truth should shape the way in which we talk about one another at all times and in all places.
Any observation that suggests we know what all Christians, Jews, and Muslims think or believe is bound to be wrong. We know this, and we should begin to qualify our remarks accordingly.
Three, we should nurture generous advocacy for what we do believe and resist abusive advocacy in all its forms. Finding the common denominator in what we all believe or eschewing any kind of religious particularity is not the answer to religious extremism.
We learn tolerance when we own the particularity of our own faith, recognize the particularity of someone else’s, and continue to communicate – all the while — in a fashion that is loving and gracious.
Modeling that approach to conversation and insisting on it is the hallmark of the kind of society to which we have committed ourselves as religious leaders is essential.
There have been those who have suggested that the events in Orlando are just desserts for the society that we have created. Some have argued that it can be traced to our attitudes toward guns and violence. Others have suggested that events of this kind can be traced to the openness of our society. I don’t believe that any of those things are at the root of the events in Orlando.
We are in a religious and cultural conflict with radicalized elements that believe that the way that we live and the way that we live with one another is unacceptable. How long this conflict will last is hard to say and involves decisions that lie beyond the walls of our religious communities. But experience teaches us that we can and do play a role in shaping a society that guarantees the safety and well being of one another as beloved children of God.
We should dedicate ourselves to that effort, now, and stand strong in its defense.