The media constantly refuses to air critiques of both Islam and the LGBT lobby, and I was curious what the coverage would look like when the two cultures finally clashed. But I had expected we’d see a gay couple attempting to purchase a wedding cake from a Muslim baker or hire a Muslim wedding photographer, and wondered whether the courts and public opinion would rule the same way they had against Christians. Yet there are no words for the horror that occurred in Orlando. My heart aches for everyone who suffered loss that day.
I do want to look at a common response from some on the Left, however. Employees of the American Civil Liberties Union and others promptly blamed Christians for the shooting, which is idiotic.
So many terroristic enablers in churches, in Congress, and state houses. Whether by discriminatory policy or the love affair with guns.
— Mandela Barnes (@TheOtherMandela) June 12, 2016
It’s bigoted and ignorant enough to blame an entire demographic for the actions of one person from that demographic (“All Muslims are terrorists,” for example), but why on earth would you blame an entirely different demographic? When someone says, “I do this horrific thing in the name of Religion A,” it’s irrational to blame Religion B.
We Love Gay People, So We Won’t Lie to Them
The shooting happened at a gay bar, and Christians do believe that marriage is the permanent and exclusive unity of one man and one woman, for reasons that were obvious to most people until a few decades ago. Being a lot more stable than the whims of society, Christianity still teaches the same things about marriage.
Christians believe the laws of morality are as objective as the laws of physics: we didn’t make them, but we can learn them. Just as we can build better airplanes if we understand the laws of physics, we can build better societies if we understand the laws of morality. Sin is real, and Christianity’s founding moment was God, out of love, dealing with that.
But while Christians believe homosexual actions are wrong, Christianity has never and does not now teach that it’s okay to kill people just because they’re gay. When fringe groups calling themselves Christian do horrific things, Christians are nearly unanimous in denouncing them and pointing out how these actions aren’t Christian at all. (For example, watch LutheranSatire’s delightful mockery of the Westboro Baptist Church as the Westboro Baptist Chipmunks.) We believe that sin is real, but the context within which we believe that does not inspire violence.
For one thing, we believe we’re pretty much all in the same boat regarding sin. We’re all sinners, whether we spend our Saturday nights at gay bars or in church. Jesus made it clear that he came for sinners. (If you want to hear him being explicit, read Mark 2:17, where he says, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repent.”)
Yes, Christians do believe homosexual actions are sinful. But we also believe that mass shootings are sinful, and lying is sinful, and gossip is sinful, and so are laziness, torture, theft, rape, dishonesty, abuse. As a Catholic, I go to confession about once a month to repent, seek mercy, and renew my own commitment to rid myself of sinful behavior. We all sin.
In the face of horrific sins like the shooting in Orlando, Christians often remind themselves, “But for the grace of God, there go I.” This is distinctly different both from the brand of Islam that the Orlando shooter proclaimed his allegiance to and from the secular attack mobs on Twitter insisting on lashing out at their political opponents rather than doing some soul-searching or seeking to comfort the stricken families during a time of grief.
Sin Is Not the End of the Road, But a Beginning
When Christians say “that action is sinful,” we don’t presume to judge a person’s culpability from a place of superiority. We didn’t make the rules. We break them ourselves, plenty. So we leave the judging and punishing to God. Our faith teaches that the reality of our sin doesn’t have to define us for eternity. It’s a faith of hope, of an opportunity for all our sins to be wiped clean for eternity. When the Jews of Jesus’s time were poised to stone a woman caught in adultery, he raised the bar for their moral understanding. “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” he said. Then he told the woman, “From now on, do not sin anymore.”
He didn’t say it’s okay to betray your spouse, or that the woman didn’t sin. But he got everyone to examine their own consciences, drop their rocks, and leave. This is the man Christians follow. (For further illustration, see his Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.) We believe in sin, but we’re taught to respond not with hate but with love, as many Chick-Fil-A employees did in Orlando, following the example of Christ. This is a complex belief well-suited to the human condition that many on the secular Left seem unwilling to understand or grapple with seriously. They prefer instead to set up caricatures of Christianity and attack those.
While Christians believe in sin, we also believe in repentance and mercy. The great promise of Christianity is that, ultimately, our sins don’t have to condemn us to death. When St. John the Baptist was preparing the way for Jesus—the transcendent God becoming a human being who would suffer horrific violence to provide a way out of the world we’ve made horrific—he didn’t slaughter the people he judged to be sinful. He called them to repentance. That’s been the message of Christianity from the beginning: we’re all sinners, but there’s hope because of God’s exemplary love; we need to repent.
To say that Christianity’s teaching about marriage caused the shooting at a gay bar is to reveal either profound ignorance or profound disregard for accuracy, either of which ought to be profoundly embarrassing. It also reveals a profound hypocrisy among those who are willing to criticize one world religion reflexively while shielding another that has actual ties to the event in question.
When ISIS routinely throws gay people off buildings and publicly calls for terrorist attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and a shooter calls 911 during the attack to pledge allegiance to ISIS, and ISIS claims responsibility for the attack, you have limited options. You can be ignorant and bigoted, and blame all Muslims, or all Middle Easterners, or all people who have darkish skin and beards. You can be irrational and idiotic, and blame a different religion entirely. Or you can acknowledge the obvious fact that the gunman was inspired by the violent faction of Islam that is ISIS.