KevinH: Don’t Become The Offense
We’re away for a fun weekend and when eating breakfast at the hotel Sunday morning, there is a tv on in the breakfast room. Although not nearly all the details are in yet, that tv is telling us that something terrible had happened in Orlando.
There was a mass shooting at a gay nightclub and at least 20 were dead and at least another 20-some were injured.
As we’re driving home that night, we stop for a quick bite to eat. Now the tv in Burger King is telling us that the count is up to 50 dead and 50-some injured. The shooter was an American-born Muslim with apparent connection to or inspiration from ISIS.
Later that night after I got home I looked at my Facebook feed for the first time all day. I cringed as I opened it up because I knew what was coming. My cringe was not in vain.
Certainly there were postings by people expressing concern and mourning and prayer for the people of Orlando. There were postings linking to stories of those who were helping in one way or another in response to this terrible tragedy. But for every one posting of the aforementioned types, there were seemingly two or three decrying politically-charged issues:
We must get rid of the guns!
We must get rid of gun-free zones!
Obama again refuses to say this is radical Islam and won’t do anything about ISIS!
We must destroy ISIS and radical Islam!
We must stop calling this Islam and blaming Islam!
We’ve got to stop Muslim immigrants from coming into this country!
All this, and other assorted ugliness like links to stories of pastors saying that gays and the Orlando night-clubbers had it coming to them and others blaming this on Christians for creating a hateful environment. All this and I didn’t nearly get through a days worth of my Facebook feed.
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think this is how Jesus immediately reacts to this situation.
I am reminded of the story of the woman caught in adultery. She is brought before Jesus and the first thing he does is respond to her dire need – her need to avoid being stoned. When he has met that need and she is no longer in physical danger, that is when he tells her to go and sin no more. Only after Jesus meets her need does he then give her instruction.
Now, of course, the large majority of us likely do not know anybody from this tragedy in Orlando. Most of us are constrained by what we could possibly do on a practical level to meet the needs of the victims and others directly affected by this situation. So for many of us, there’s not a lot we can categorically do to help those involved.
But whether he was directly involved or speaking from afar, I believe Jesus’ first reaction would be to show care for those who just suffered from great evil and devastation. And it wouldn’t be to tell them how to fix their problems.
We’ve already had some good discussion on the blog here about this and I believe we do ourselves and others no favors when we are so quick to engage the entrenched and ostensibly worsening political and cultural division in our country. Yes, it is very natural to be angry and upset when something like this happens. And yes, we have some very real and dangerous problems that we need to solve, or at the very least, lessen their impact. But do we really think immediately after a reprehensible calamity like this that anyone who may disagree with us is in an open and ready state to hear our dogged political posturing?
Most likely all that they are going to see and hear is us pounding our pulpit. They won’t listen to the message. They will only take umbrage at the pounding.
Now for some, they may never listen to the message. No matter how timely and considerately we speak, they may choose to hear nothing but ignorance or stupidity or hate.
There is nothing we can do about that.
But when we are so quick to bang the drum of our political refrains rather than grieving with or showing concern for those harmed by great evil (or maybe immediately after expressing token concern), I think we cut our chances even further of ever being heard. We are likely only to cause even greater resistance.
The message of the gospel is already often foolish and offensive to those who don’t believe.
Let’s be careful that we don’t create additional unnecessary offense, to unbelievers and believers alike, in our response to tragedy and our immediate inclination to spout our politically-laced proclamations.