Sunday, June 12, 2016

Orlando – How do Orthodox Christians Respond?

Early this morning 50 people were killed in Orlando, Florida by what is being reported as an act of Islamic terrorism. I found out about this just a few hours ago for various reasons, mostly because this was a really busy day for me. But reviewing the social media postings surrounding this event I find it just plain disturbing that every interest group has already come out to grind its ax: pro-gun, anti-gun, Islam bashers, Islam apologists, anti-gay folks, pro-gay folks, and many more. We are so spiritually lost in our country that when 50 people are slaughtered in cold blood we do not even think to pray – we seek immediately to blame and to attack.

I like to think that we prayed on 9/11. Yes – we got to the point of blame quickly enough to be sure. But as a society first we prayed. I remember well the huge prayer vigil on the Diag at the University of Michigan that night. We didn't seem to pray today. Even though it was the day of our Lord's Resurrection. Sides were quickly draw up, and the spitting began right over the bodies still strewn about the floor of that night club in Orlando. And if we don't think that some of that spit landed on the dead we are wrong. It did. A lot of it in fact. In our haste to make a political point we almost instantly forgot about the victims and attacked each other. And we spit all over them as we spit at each other. As a society we didn't honor the dead on any level that I can discern – we just immediately got to using them to promote whatever it is that we thought was more important than they were. That is not the Orthodox Christian response.

But something posted here can't just be a critique of the politics of the fallen world. Honestly we could do that that every day here. Every hour in fact. The politics of our country effect us as Orthodox Christians to be sure, so I think at least touching on that part of our national discourse from time to time is not off limits. But as Orthodox Christians we have to be ABOVE politics. Not in a prideful or inappropriately aloof way, but we have to be above the basest level of the street. We are called to be in the world, but not become part of the world. That is, not to be consumed by the “values” of the world. So when someone is killed what is our Orthodox response? It must be prayer. We must pray for the dead. We must entreat the Lord to have mercy on them. It is a good work to pray for the dead, and it is our spiritual obligation.

Undoubtedly someone will object: but the victims were gay. At least some of them. They were in a gay night club. Certainly this the fire raining down on Sodom and Gomorrah and visiting God's wrath on those who live a life opposed to Him!

We've got to take a step back here friends. A step back from the basest levels of society. And stop using the corpses of the victims as weapons.

Fact A: the Church is not going to promote homosexuality.

Fact B: the Church is not going to promote murder.

We have to be consistent. If we are pro-life (and we are in case you were wondering) then we are pro-life all the time. Not just in the womb, but all throughout life. Homosexuality is not blessed by God. The scriptures are clear about this. No need to parse that here. Murder is not blessed by God. The scriptures are clear about this. No need to parse that  here.

So what do we do? As with any perplexing spiritual state of affairs: we pray. The spiritual situation of those killed in the night club is way above our pay grade to judge. Way above. We think we know – we want to apply judgement. But we don't know – we don't know the hearts of the victims. Only the Lord knows. And thus we need to pray for mercy for all – and leave it to the Lord to square the circle of the final resting place of each of the souls we are praying for. It is spiritually tragic that each and every one of those victims died there, including the deluded terrorist. Each of those victims is a son or a daughter of someone. Parents are weeping at their loss tonight. Most of those victims is a brother or a sister of someone. Siblings are weeping at their loss tonight. Each of those victims is created in the image of God. For this WE should weep tonight.

50 Americans were killed in a terrorist act on this day. This is the single greatest loss of life in a terrorist act in America since September 11. As Americans and Orthodox Christians it is our duty to pray for our country tonight. We have a lot of problems in America. I would probably argue (if I wanted to triple the size of this post) that most of those problems have spiritual roots. Tonight is not the night to have that discussion. Rather, tonight let us mourn our dead. And let us pray for our country. No matter our societal problems they aren't going to get better by us becoming MORE secular, that is, by being less Orthodox. But if we refuse to pray for those whose lives were tragically snuffed out, if we forget our duty as Orthodox Christians, the terrorists win. Let's decide now that we aren't going to let them win. That we are going to exhibit an Orthodox Christian response to this attack. And if we do that – we all win, for the Lord will be with us, perhaps at our darkest hour even more so than at any other time. We need Him now – for this indeed is a dark hour for our country. May He have mercy on us all.

Fr. Gregory

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