Monday, June 13, 2016

Responding to tragedy: Pointing fingers or asking questions

Words seem to fail at times like this, to adequately convey the range of emotions that a tragedy like the Orlando shootings bring forth: sadness, fear, anger, resentment, frustration, helplessness, hopelessness and more.

Yet, this morning, I have felt compelled to add some more words to the conversation.  Truth be told, I have lots of  words that I have wanted to share: I have a whole list of tweets ready to send off that highlight and blame all the things/policies/people that I think contributed to this tragedy;  There are people I want to scream about and scream at; There are friends and relatives I want to call and ask - 'do you get it now?'

But, somewhere in all of this, there has been a still, small voice that at first just seemed to be saying 'no - don't send that tweet. no - don't post that rant to facebook or send that email'.  So, I haven't (but to be clear - I had some devastating tweets/points aimed at those I disagree with!) This morning, that voice - God's Holy Spirit (I hope) - started speaking more than simply, 'no' and started asking 'why?'

The 'Whys' I have been wrestling with this morning:

  • Why do you really want to post those tweets and facebook rants?  Why do you want to start conversations with phrases like, 'Now do you get it?'  Could it be that I want to be right, that I want to feel better and like a schoolyard bully, the easiest way to do that is to pick on someone else?  
  • Why am I so quick to blame everyone that I disagree with - politically, theologically, socially?  Could it be that assigning blame to those I disagree with or that look/act/believe differently than I do might also make me feel, at least a little better about all of this?
  • Why am I just as quick to absolve everyone that shares my beliefs (political/theological/social)?  Could it be that I am more interested in expressing my 'righteous anger' than in pursuing constructive, cooperative solutions - especially if I might have to change or sacrifice in some way to achieve them? 
So today, in the vain of Jesus' teaching in Luke 7 to remove the plank from my own eye before talking about the speck in yours, I have resolved to stop pointing fingers and instead respond to this tragedy by looking in the mirror and asking the following questions:

  • Are there areas of my life where I have allowed subordinate beliefs (political, cultural, social or even theological) to  supercede the rule of love that Jesus Christ both calls us to and modeled for us?  
    • Jesus' words and life is to be our model and guide in this life: His response to those that came to arrest them was to heal the soldier arresting him and call his followers to put away their swords.  Jesus, as he was being crucified, asked for forgiveness for those who put him on the cross.  
      • How do we speak about and act towards those that attack or vilify us or our beliefs?
  •  Do I seek out those that are mistreated, targeted for abuse (verbal, physical, psychological, et al) threatened or persecuted and then actively work to help, support and protect them - working and sacrificing to bring them justice and peace in God's name, no matter who they are, where they are from or what they believe?  
    • Jesus healed leapers, gave sight the blind and he made a habit of sharing grace and justice where societal/cultural norms would have expected judgement - the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, syrophoenician woman, the criminal he was crucified with, etc.  
      • Do we show and share God's love to all those in need or just those that we like, look like or agree with?
  • How do I respond when those who share my beliefs and/or views in one (or more) area promote hate/violence/bigotry or discrimination?  Another, more direct way to ask this is: what are my true priorities?  Am I first a Christian or an American?  Am I first a follower of Jesus or a Republican/Democrat?  Am I first a child of God or a believer in the 1st/2nd amendment? 
    • Jesus, quite literally, sacrificed everything out of love for us - so that we might know God's love.  Almost without exception, Jesus' anger was reserved for the religious authorities - those in power - who used that power to help themselves and/or oppress others.  
      • Do we, like Jesus, work and sacrifice Justice for all - or only those that agree with us?
  • Does my life - my words, my actions, who people know me to be - point those I encounter to God's love, grace and forgiveness or am I known by what I am against?  
    • In his interactions with people Jesus always lead with grace, love, forgiveness and healing - after someone had encountered Jesus and been changed by that interaction, only then did Jesus call for repentance and a changed life.  If we as individuals, churches and Christians are known for what we judge rather than who has forgiven us - we are not following in the way of Christ.  If people - the LBGTQ community or anyone other individual or community - only hears about our love (or our 'thoughts and prayers) after a tragedy, but the rest of the time only hear our condemnation - how can we expect them to accept or see God's love for them in and through us? 
      • Do people see Christ's love or my judgement in and through my life?
In the coming days I am going to continue to wrestle with these questions and I would invite you to wrestle with me (not against me!)as we seek to live into our call to take part in the work of the family of God - to share God's love with the world and invite everyone into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Hug your family and friends, cherish the time and share the love and peace of Jesus Christ with all.

In Christ,


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