God weeps over Orlando

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Friends and family members embrace outside the Orlando Police Headquarters during the investigation of a shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida

Friends and family members wait outside the Orlando, Fla., police headquarters during the investigation of the deadly shooting at the Pulse nightclub, June 12, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Steve Nesius. *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-HATRED-GAYS, originally transmitted on June 13, 2016.

Just days ago, God saw what happened during the attack on the nightclub in Orlando, Florida — the most lethal act of gun violence in modern America, perpetrated by an ISIS sympathizer — and God wept.

Yes, God has emotions. To me, this is the essence of religion – that God can be happy, angry, sad, disappointed – and that our actions matter.

A midrash (rabbinic comment on biblical text) teaches:

The ancient sages taught: There was a secret place in heaven, where God would go to weep – because God would see what God’s children were doing to each other – and God would go to that secret place, and God would weep – because the angels said to him: God, it is not appropriate for You to cry in public.

No, God doesn’t have a body, or a head, or eyes, or tear ducts.

I simply mean: There are moments when the Soul of the Universe itself needs comfort.

God continues to weep.

  • God weeps — over our savage inability to address the plague of gun violence in this country.

If you think that God was angry about the idolatry of the Golden Calf, that’s nothing compared to God’s anger (if I might be so bold and even presumptuous) over God’s anger over the worship of the gun in this country. Just as there are those who cannot and will not question the existence and/or justice of God, there are too many for whom the absolute right — to have assault weapons?!? — is something close to divine.

  • God weeps — over the hatred unleashed by those who claim to speak in God’s Name — or names. The former chief rabbi of Great Britain, Lord Jonathan Sacks, once said: “Religion can make good people better, but it can also make bad people worse.” Too many people are worse because of their faith.

And, by the way, we are not talking just Islam here — as convenient and as attractive as it might be to think so.

If you are a member of a church where the pastor makes hateful remarks about how the killing in Orlando was God’s will, God’s punishment of gays and lesbians, you are allowed — no, you are commanded — to stand up and say that such theology is pornographic.

  • God weeps — over the hatred of LGBT people, and/or those who are otherwise “other.” God weeps over our essential inability to affirm the diversity of God’s creation — a diversity built into the framework of existence itself.

And I believe that God smiles, as well — even through the divine tears.

  • God smiles when religious leaders tell the truth.

When there was the attack on the LGBT center in Tel Aviv last year, Israel’s Chief Lau noted that just days after it happened, we read the Ten Commandments in the Torah (as we read the Ten Commandments for Shavuot, only hours after the attack in Orlando).

These are his words.

It is not possible to say ‘our hands did not spill this blood,’

Anyone who has been at a Sabbath table, or in a classroom, or in a synagogue, or at a soccer pitch, or in a club, or at a community center, and heard the racist jokes, the homophobic jokes, the obscene words, and didn’t stand up and stop it, he is a partner to this bloodshed.

Rabbi Lau got it right. If you sit back and you hear hatred, and you don’t respond — you are a conspirator.

  • God smiles over Muslim leaders who have literally lined up to denounce this horror — to denounce those who continue to distort and trample the name of a great religion. Like here. And here. And here.
  • So, I am putting you on notice — Muslims did speak out. And they do speak out. And they are giving blood as well.

But, if we really want to make God smile — then we have to forget the prayers, the tears, the pious statements — and act.

  • Because, yes — it’s about the hatred of LGBT people — and the only way to fix this is to teach tolerance.
  • And, yes — it’s about radical Islam’s lethal hatred of LGBT people — and the only way to “fix” this is locally — by reaching out to Muslim leaders and to talk about this hatred and how it can be transformed.

Yes, I know that this is a massive goal. But, there was a time when the Catholic Church taught the hatred of Jews, and they “fixed” that — with the help of Jewish leaders. Is modern Islam capable of “fixing” their hatreds?

  • And, yes — it’s about our gun laws.

Now, you tell me.

Of those three, which do we have the most power in addressing and really fixing?

Let’s make God smile.

God has had a rough several days.