When I got up yesterday morning to head over to my chapel at the staff college, despite the fact that with classes out of session that I would have no-one to worship with, I saw the news of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. I was stunned, and of course I prayed for the victims. As the morning continued I read with horror the dramatic increase in the number of people killed and wounded. I have Gay friends in Orlando and thankfully they had checked in safe on Facebook, which relieved some of my concern, but not my shock and anger over what had happened.
Then came news of the murderer. His name, Omar Mateen. He was a Muslim, born in the United States to Afghan parents. As the day went on we learned more about him. He had been on the FBI radar for comments sympathetic to terrorists, including the Boston Marathon bombers. He was employed by one of the largest private security firms in the world. He had recently completed an associate of arts in Criminal Justice and a college in Florida. His first wife said that he was unstable and frequently beat her. His father claimed that he was enraged when he saw two men kissing in public a few weeks ago. In the past two weeks, despite having been on the Federal radar, he was able to legally purchase an assault rifle and a Glock semi-automatic pistol in Florida. During the massacre he called 911 and swore his allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State, or ISIL. He rented a car and travelled 120 miles from his home to attack this specific target.
Was he a terrorist? Yes. Was he motivated by a deep hatred of homosexuals? Yes. Did he have religious reasons to do this? Also yes, fundamentalist Islam has no problem with killing homosexuals, and the more militant types seem to take a perverse pleasure in killing homosexuals, especially Gay men. This happens all the time, and not just in areas controlled by the Islamic State or the Taliban. Was Mateen an actual member of the Islamic State? It depends on what your definition of membership is, as the FBI sorts through his cyber trail we will find out more about his connections with militant Islam. Evidently his father is a supporter of the Taliban and has spoken on American Afgani television programs about that support, though he may be delusional as well, since he has also claimed to be the President of Afganistan.
Sadly, the fact that is was a hate crime committed against LGBTQ people in Orlando will be obscured by the Islamic connection. Donald Trump has been doing this all day, for him the victims don’t matter, all that matters is his campaign and his determination to make all Muslims pay for the actions of some. Expect to see more of this, especially from the supposedly “Christian” political leaders, pundits, and preachers who make their living demonizing the LGBTQ community in the United States; who ramrod legislation to deny Gays to same rights enjoyed by others across this nation; and who promote “kill the gays” laws in other countries, especially in Equatorial Africa, where numerous American evangelists have gone to help try to pass such laws. Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick tweeted this shortly after the shooting:
Frankly, at least from my point of view it seems that there is little difference between anti-gay preachers and bigots of any religion who cry for the death, punishment, and persecution of Gays. All find some reason in their scriptures to justify their hatred and violent attitudes, not just towards Gays, but toward anyone that disagrees with them. All in my view are culpable of the murder of these men and women. In the classic film Judgement at Nuremberg, Spencer Tracy’s character, Judge Dan Haywood said these all too pertinent words:
“The principal of criminal law in every civilized society has this in common. Any person who sways another to commit murder, any person who furnishes the lethal weapon for the purpose of the crime, any person who is an accessory to the crime, is guilty.”
One cannot expect to have a society where Gay people are demonized and discriminated against, where anti-gay vitriol runs rampant, especially in religious circles, and then to pretend that ties shooting is an isolated incident committed by an Islamic terrorist who was motivated by terrorism versus hating the people he killed because they were Gay. That is a convenient excuse. When I mentioned this on Facebook yesterday morning I waited to see reactions of friends. Interestingly enough of all the people that commented, or expressed any feelings of toward the victims, none were conservative Christians. None. When I mentioned this later a few came on line to agree how terrible this was. I looked at other friends timelines, and thankfully there were some who condemned what happened, but overall, very few said anything either to condemn the attack or to offer any sympathy or support to the victims. One of my friends, another Navy Chaplain immediately commented on that and said, “The gunman did what too many in their hearts desire, unfortunately. They are silent because they know that truth…”
Sadly, he is all too correct. Whatever happened to the words of Jesus who said to love our neighbors as we do ourselves? Whatever happened to the words of Jesus about the Good Samaritan, the man who was despised by the religious elite who alone had mercy on a man who had been attacked and badly injured who religious leaders passed by on the road. (See Luke 10:25-37)
With that in mind have a good day.