Friday, June 17, 2016

How Do We Respond to Orlando?

It was a struggle to decide whether to write this. I don’t think I’m likely to add anything unique to this situation. What finally made me do it, though, was the chance someone in the LGBT community might see it. You could see essentially the same comments coming from Glenn Beck and Franklin Graham, but maybe you aren’t willing to read them just on reputation. You might think they hate you, so you don’t care what they have to say. But since you don’t know me, I hope you might be willing to give me these few moments of your time.

What happened in Orlando was an absolute tragedy. It was more than a tragedy, it was a crime against everything good and holy in the world. Forty-nine people are dead and 53 more are forever scarred, all due to what appears to be a religious motivation. Nor does the devastation stop there. It is also measured in the grief of all those who lost loved ones, and in the terror of those who fear they and their families might be targeted next.

So many things could be talked about. Politics are important, and I understand why people would turn to discussing them. But it seems too soon to start talking about bans on guns and bans on Muslims. Both, in any case, are protected by the Constitution. We could talk about Islam, but that seems pointless, too. There is so little honesty about it, and it is never treated as a complete picture. It is a religious system with both peaceful followers and those inspired by it to commit these horrors. The real Islam could be discussed, but now is not the time for that, either.

Right now, I think the best thing I can do is express my solidarity. The victims, and the community of which they are a part, were targeted for destruction. I grieve with and for them, because they are my fellow citizens and my fellow men. I may not have been caught with them in the crossfire, but that does not matter. We are all affected by this. We should all feel the pain. We should all be united in the resolve to stand with and protect one another, and to offer our love.

Much divides the LGBT and Christian communities, but this is a point they have in common. Christians know what it is to be the targets of hatred, and what it is to be pursued to death. The United States have been a safe haven, so most of us here do not have firsthand experience with persecution. But we know the trials of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, and through the last 2,000 years. No group has faced as much hate as we have. ISIS, which inspired this monster, is systematically exterminating Christians in the Middle East at this very moment. So in this, we are the same. We should be able to do something with that.

There is an old saying, one that used to be the hallmark of discourse in America. “I disagree with what you said, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” It is not as often said today, perhaps because we have lost sight of what is at stake. Perhaps we have grown so use to peaceful discourse that we think there is no risk of someone putting us to death for what we say. Or perhaps the right and left are so deeply divided that we do not care what happens to the other. I hope that is not the case. I hope, if there is any hope in a situation like this, that we can be reminded of the sacred value in one another, even when we cannot agree.

And yes, I will be honest. We do not agree. I am a Christian, which does not mean I am perfect. I am very far from it. I have no interest in judging so I can feel better about myself, either. I am a Christian, which means I recognized my life had no meaning while I lived it for me. And it means I realized I could not fix myself. I could not make myself acceptable to God, and so I rely on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Only He can redeem us, and He offers to do so through His own blood.

Because I believe Jesus died for me, and because I know He rose to life to prove it, I also believe what the Bible has to say. I mean you no harm by saying it, but I am constrained to say homosexuality is a sin. It is a sin, but it is no different than my sins. It is no different than lying, stealing, cheating, or being angry. It is just one thing, just another entry on a long list of the things that separate us from God. They are what keep us from being who we were meant to be.

If we cling to them, we condemn ourselves. And that is what death is. It is a human birthright, inherited from our first parents and earned by every one of us, because our corruption cannot be allowed to go on forever. More than that, if we want nothing to do with God, He does not force us to have Him. When people make that choice in this life, when it ends, they go to a place where there is nothing of Him and His goodness. It is a hard truth, but one that must be spoken. How else can it be avoided unless you know it is there? And unless you know there is a way around it?

That is what Christ offers. Through Him, destruction can be avoided. And that is only the beginning. The truly marvelous thing is that through Him, life can be found. With Him, joy will be experienced. No more pain. No more tears. No more doubts about who we are or what we are meant to be. Through Jesus, we are reunited with God and can find where we really belong.

That is why Christians resist the LGBT movement. It is not because we are disgusted, but because we are concerned you are standing in your own way. We are trying to help, while also trying to defend society and the family from the consequences we foresee if lust is allowed to run rampant.

You may not be very happy to read that. I know, and I know a response might be forthcoming. I welcome it. I believe it is important to be able to talk. I only hope you can see how I say this out of love, not hate. When the bridge is out and the sky is dark, do you want someone who will let you drive on blissfully unaware? Or someone who will warn you by any means necessary?

I cannot help but sound the alarm. But to go back a bit, they are just words. God will judge, but only He can. Only He has the right to determine the final destiny of every soul. He has told us the measure He will use, His Son, Jesus Christ. But the act of judgment is His and His alone. My only goal is to persuade, not to destroy. And if I cannot persuade you, I will still stand with you against those who seek your annihilation.

We all face the prospect of life’s end and the eternal destiny that follows, but the victims in Orlando did not deserve the way they met it. Neither did those in Charleston, Boston, or New York. The Westboro Baptists who say otherwise are nearer to hell than anyone else I know. No one deserves to have his life taken in an act of such terror. No one has the right to take it. That is the real evil. That is what we must all stand against.

I can imagine we still disagree. What happened in Orlando will not change that, perhaps. I hope it will. I hope you can see the value in what I have said, and that you will turn to Christ. But even if we still disagree, I think we can defend each other. I am dedicated to doing so, even if we cannot see eye to eye. I wanted you to know that. I wanted you to know that I truly am sorry that this happened, and I do not think they were asking for it. When it comes to something like this, we are all one. May the Lord grant you His peace, His comfort, and His protection.

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