Fear, Strength, Religion and Politics: Responses to the Orlando Massacre
As everyone has probably heard by now, there was a massacre at the gay bar and nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida on June 12th. Omar Mateen open-fired and killed forty-nine people. The reasons for why he chose to shoot are still not clear, although many speculate connections with terrorism. These sources say he was a member of ISIL, but that hasn't been confirmed. Others have said he was secretly harboring homosexual feelings, as apparently proven on gay dating apps, but this seems to be false. All that is known is that he was a regular at the club before shooting on that night.
YouTuber, Amber made a video after the shooting. She speaks about the difficulty of fear along with a need to be with the community. As a frequent club-goer in Los Angeles, she hasn't been able to sleep. Her mind wanders to how she would escape if it were to happen at one of the clubs she attends with her friends. Undoubtedly, it's a likely scenario many other LGBT club attendees are considering, these days. Community centers are supposed to be a safe spot for people, but the event has changed that, forever.
More than one Christian pastor has spoken out in favor of the shooting. One example is Baptist Pastor Roger Jimenez of Verity Baptist Church Sacramento who believes the real tragedy is that more didn't die. Pastor Steven Anderson said a similar speech, calling the LGBT community "pedophiles" and feels relief after the event: "Are you sad that fifty pedophiles were killed, today? Um, no, I think that's great! I think that helps society." A third is Donnie Romero who has been praying that the survivors of the shooting won't make it out of ICU alive. Now, there's a guy you want for a spiritual leader:
“And I’ll take it a step further, because I heard on the news today, that there are still several dozen of these queers in ICU and intensive care. And I will pray to God like I did this morning, I will do it tonight, I’ll pray that God will finish the job that that man started, and he will end their life, and by tomorrow morning they will all be burning in hell, just like the rest of them, so that they don’t get any more opportunity to go out and hurt little children.”
I realize that most are angered and disgusted by these words, but Christian leaders feeling this way isn't new to me. If it helps, the minister is so ignorant that he doesn't know "ICU" is an acronym for "Intensive Care Unit." You know, where patients are kept for intensive care. In short, he repeated himself in one sentence. Maybe, he isn't really as oblivious as I think, and he just wanted to be clear that they're in serious condition, but I doubt it.
The Cliche Argument
The reaction to these pastors have been the standard, "That isn't real Christianity." Well, if that's true, how is someone in power saying it? One could smooth over a member speaking such nonsense, and we could assume they simply don't know better; however, a religious leader telling their entire congregation that death to the LGBT community is the answer to improving the world should cause alarm. When will society start to question Christian values and the religion they have given such power to?
One additional observation that deserves consideration is America's contradiction when it comes to Omar's potential link to ISIL and/or Islam. Terrorism is not religion. Nonetheless, once again, people blame the religion of Islam. I find this ironic considering the content of the public comments coming directly from Christian leaders. It seems society has amnesia when it comes to Christianity's violent history and present. If you want to ban Muslims, ban Christians, first.
GOP Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox made a speech that comes across sympathetic to the LGBT community. It sounds like a sincere retelling of his own journey as someone who has begun to learn the importance of gay rights. He admits his past mistakes of unknowingly bullying the LGBT as a teenager, and a feeling that he hasn't worked for the unconditional love received, regardless, as an adult. He makes the point that while straight people would fear the idea of a shooting, it may have changed when they found out it was at a gay bar. He talks about coming together as a nation rather than continuing to divide between political parties.
A Dream Come True?
It is easy to get behind what he says. It is easy to feel relief and see the tears as proof that something big is about to happen to bring the parties together. Wouldn't it be nice if politics were more about human rights like it's supposed to? Unfortunately, I have a hard time believing it. I can't assume what Spencer Cox said was heartfelt and the tears weren't for show. I can't prove it wasn't, yet, either.
Before we all get too excited, though, isn't it strange that it would take forty-nine people killed in a gay club to change a homophobe's mind? Members of the LGBT community are killed, every day, dude. When Reagan was president in the 80s, a total of 20,849 people had died from AIDS related complications before he spoke about it. By then it's a little difficult to still feel thrilled about peace.
After so much fear, multiple videos have been uploaded to spread the message of love and perseverance. YouTuber, Arielle Scarcella made a video, including her LGBT friends to share a message of hope. The words are to inspire people to keep being themselves in the face of fear:
"Our LGBT community is resilient, and out of all of the things that I've seen in this life I've learned that we thrive, not because we're not afraid of hate, but because we are not afraid to love."
YouTubers, Bria and Chrissy released their latest music video "Face Your Fears" from their album of the same name. They dedicated the video not only to the LGBT family, but to the victims of the Orlando massacre. The song is a powerful call for the community to be themselves without shame. While a bittersweet release date, I think it's best to see it as well-timed. It reminds us of why we have Pride in the first place.
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