June 12, 2016. I woke up, went to church, listened to the sermon, and headed home. The pastor mentioned a little bit about something that happened in Orlando, Florida. He didn’t go into too much detail, but I had grown accustomed to hearing about shootings or other incidents happening every few months, so I just assumed it was something like that where a few people probably got hurt and maybe someone got killed. And even now, when I am writing this, it seems so ridiculous to think that way. I mean, of course it is sad when things like that happen somewhere and I always try and pray for the families of everyone involved, but when it has been happening so much, they stop making a huge impact on me unless they are somewhat closer to me, either emotionally or physically closer.
But this one was bigger and closer. Not only is this even been labeled as the biggest terrorist attack on the United States after 9/11, but it is also closer to me on a personal level. The Orlando shooter targeted a gay nightclub, killing 49 and injuring 53. It is the deadliest attack on LGBT people in US history.
When I got home from church that day, I decided that I should probably find out more about what happened. All the news channels were covering it, so I sat there and listened to a few different channel’s coverage of it for about an hour and a half. When I did finally find out what happened, I really didn’t know how to react, especially to the response I saw in person and online. Online, it seemed like if anyone mentioned it, they were in a heated debate. And the majority of debates I saw were Christians on one side and people supporting LGBT on the other side. Debating things from the morality of homosexuality to heated debates about gun control. As a gay celibate Christian, a lot of the time, I felt like I was attacked from both sides. I saw many people coming from a ‘Christian’ perspective saying horrible things about gay people including slurs and saying that they deserved things like the shooting. (I put quotes around Christian because they are not acting in a Christian way, but many are claiming Christianity as their reasoning for what they are saying). And I saw many liberal sided people saying horrible things about Christianity and about religion in general, especially since the shooter pledged allegiance to ISIS shortly before committing this tragedy. I saw lots of people using this incident to try and prove that all religion is hateful and violent.
Many Christians I know personally though, they stayed silent. For comparison, back in 2012 when the Sandy Hook shooting took place at an elementary school, many of these same people who are silent now were very vocal in expressing their concern for weeks, even months afterwards. The same has happened for many of the other shootings and tragedies that have happened in recent years. But when it came this time, I only saw one or two Christian friends post anything about it, and it makes sense. Most of the Christians I interact fall to the more conservative side, which means most of them believe – as I do – that practicing homosexuality is not compatible with the Bible. And since there was so much polarization going on in the discussions about it, people not wanting to get in disagreements about it will just stay silent. This leaves people like me – people who were truly emotionally affected by the events surrounded by tons of people who seem to pretend like nothing happened. I talked to a friend of mine who is also a gay celibate Christian, and he expressed very similar feelings and experience among Christians he knew.
And this is just another symptom of a huge issue I have noticed within the church. A lot of times, people in the church avoid the subject of homosexuality like the plague. I hadn’t heard anything spoken about in the church about homosexuality until about a year ago. The impression I got when growing up was just that homosexuality didn’t exist within the church. Sure, there were gay people who weren’t Christians, but it was made to seem like homosexuality wasn’t something that a Christian would struggle with. That is one of the reasons that I had such a hard time with it while growing up. It was made to seem like Christians didn’t struggle with homosexuality, yet there I was, someone who fully believed the gospel who in 6th grade started to struggle with homosexuality. I am going to leave that there, but I do want to talk more about this issue in the future.
I guess the point of this is that the Orlando tragedy was really horrible, and my prayers are with all of the friends and families of the victims. But also, I am super disappointed in the reaction I saw. Whether it was toxic bickering between people who disagreed, or the oddly silent role the church took, they were both disappointing.