How can we help? What can we do? What should we say? These are just a few of the questions surrounding the shooting at the club in Orlando this past weekend. As we gathered for worship, the details of the shooting were still very fuzzy when our Chalice Bearers added the shooting to our Prayers of the People. Predictably, in the immediate aftermath and especially in an election year, people are wrestling for control of the narrative. Some have tried to make the story all about gun control; others have tried to make the story all about homophobia; others have tried to make the story all about the Islamic threat to our country and our values; others have tried to blame law enforcement for a dereliction of duty; still others have waded into the discussion with the unhelpful wisdom that this was God’s continuing judgment on our nation. Perhaps you have even read a few more tag lines in your Facebook and Twitter feeds. Forty-nine lives were snuffed out; fifty-three individuals suffered injuries during the shooting; families are grieving; so does our Lord.
Now, less than thirty-six hours from the horrific event of early Sunday morning, we are learning that the situation is far more complex than pundits would want. Yes, the shooter was a Muslim; but he does not seem to have gone to Mosque very often. Yes, he targeted a bar frequented by the Orlando GLBTQI community, but, according to reports, he seems to have frequented the bar for over three years. Some patrons knew him by name. Some knew that he had “good days” and “bad days” and to stay away from him on those good days. He was married and had a child. He seems to have caused enough concern in the minds of others that he was reported as a threat to the welfare and safety of others. He was interviewed and investigated by the FBI. He had the funds a legal right to purchase an expensive weapon, but it seems to have been a Sig Sauer MCX rather than the reported AR-15. One witness describes his laughter while shooting as “not human” and “maniacal”. If we have discovered so much about the conflicting backstory of these events in less than two full days, imagine what we will know by this time next week? Next month? Still, forty-nine lives were snuffed out; fifty-three individuals suffered injuries during the shooting; families are grieving; so does our Lord.
In their efforts to take control of the narrative, opposing sides are using the forty-nine and fifty-three for their own purposes. And there begins our first response in Nashville. Pray for the forty-nine individuals whose lives were cut short. Pray for the fifty-three individuals whose easiest injuries from which to recover will be the bullet wounds. The survivor guilt and screams of others, and the picture of the dead seared into their minds, will be far more challenging and will linger far longer than the physical scars. Pray for the one, the shooter, the perpetrator of evil. Pray for the loved ones of all those involved. Pray for the first responders, who waded into danger to save lives. Pray for the surgeons and nurses in the emergency room, whose expertise ensured that the number of deaths was not higher. Pray for the mental health professionals and pastors who will come along later to help all affected deal with the aftermath. Pray for those who would use the deaths of forty-nine individuals and the wounds of fifty-three more for political points, one-upsmanship, and any other silly games. Pray that whatever failures in the system that may have contributed to this senseless tragedy come to light, that future events might be prevented. And pray that our brothers and sisters who are involved in any associated ministry are empowered by the Holy Spirit to speak God’s mourning and God’s redemptive power into such evil. Pray especially for our brother and sister Episcopalians in the diocese of Central Florida. They will be the primary witnesses to God’s mourning heart and His redemptive power in their community as their lives return to the new normal following a collective trauma. Forty-nine lives were snuffed out; fifty-three individuals suffered injuries during the shooting; families are grieving; so does our Lord—that is their new normal.
If we are doing our jobs as disciples of our Lord Christ, people at work and in our social circles will no doubt look to us and ask us for answers. Do not be surprised. Do not be afraid. Do not expect to have all the answers. Darkness tried hard to eclipse the light; it is only natural that people will be drawn to His light living in you! You may not know the right answers to all the questions, but you do know the One who does. Pray. He will give you the words of comfort and hope. Forty-nine lives were snuffed out; fifty-three individuals suffered injuries during the shooting; families are grieving; so is our Lord.
I would encourage all Adventers to resist the temptation to wade into the discussions the pundits would like us to have. Those discussions seek only to divide and to scare and to narrate a story for the benefit of an election. They do not seek to mourn the loss of life; they do not seek to acknowledge or to mourn the pain suffered by those who survived; they do not seek to bring healing; and they certainly do not speak to the power of God to defeat all evil. It was precisely for events such as these and for the individuals in Orlando that He came down, died, and was raised again. You and I are called to speak to the Truth of God, to His Gospel, to His glorious brilliance, and to the Hope He gives each of us, no matter our circumstances and no matter how dark the evil.
In time, I am sure our brothers and sisters in Central Florida will give us more ways to help. For now, pray, answer the questions of those who engage you, and remember that forty-nine lives were snuffed out; fifty-three individuals suffered injuries; families are grieving; and so is our Lord.