Beliefs Culture David Gushee: Christians, Conflict and Change Faith Opinion

On the worst shooting rampage in modern America

Friends and family members embrace 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

Just back from England, I return to the kind of massacre that is essentially inconceivable in that more placid, less gun-ridden land. Fifty dead, 53 more injured — a horrific body count, all attributable to one young mass murderer — the worst mass shooting in American history.

I write at 2 p.m. on the day of the killings, so these comments are subject to revision based on new evidence.

Three ingredients make up this particular mass shooting in our land full of mass shootings: a “soft” target, a hateful, determined murderer armed with military-grade weapons, and a particularly vulnerable target population — patrons of a gay nightclub.

While in this horrible case these elements come together, they also can and should be analyzed separately.

First: Any reasonably free society is filled with soft targets; that is, unguarded or lightly guarded, easily accessed locations in which civilians gather for business, education, worship or entertainment. Recent years have seen murderous assaults on many such targets, including schools, houses of worship, restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas and malls.

It is becoming increasingly clear to me that in our society, prone to murderous attacks with high-grade weapons, all soft targets need to be “hardened.” No location where civilians gather should be unguarded in the United States, and those that are lightly guarded need stronger armed security. If we are going to allow pretty much anyone to arm themselves like a military unit, we need well-trained, well-equipped armed security in all public locations, and a means to get an actual military-grade unit to every public location in America within just a few minutes. I say this with shame, as an American, that such steps should be necessary.

Second: As I write, all that is known about the now-dead killer is that his name was Omar Mateen, his parents came from Afghanistan, he was a Muslim, on the brink of the attack he called 911 and pledged allegiance to ISIS, he had expressed disdain to his parents related to seeing gay men kiss, and he had come to the attention of the FBI even before this attack. So this appears to be both an instance of Islamist-inspired domestic terrorism, and a hate crime.

The fact that this person was able to arm himself with an AR-15 automatic weapon, as well as a handgun and explosives, is the kind of thing only possible in a society willing to accept military levels of killing of civilians by allowing the sale of such weapons despite repeated massacres. It is obvious that this must end. Perhaps Americans will take the opportunity of the elections in November to vote out representatives who do not pass basic laws to protect their constituents.

Third: We live in a society that has seen rapid gains for LGBT dignity and equality, gains that have outstripped the actual acceptance of LGBT people in significant parts of the population, especially including its most conservative religious communities. We have already seen milder but unmistakable forms of anti-LGBT backlash in the year since the Supreme Court made gay marriage a national right.

In retrospect, it was perhaps tragically inevitable that some aggrieved anti-LGBT person somewhere would pick a gay bar or nightclub for some kind of horrible attack. Groups that are viewed with contempt usually end up the targets of violence, and locations that symbolize those groups are ripe targets.

At this terrible time, I reaffirm my commitment to stand in solidarity with LGBT people, precisely as a Christian, and to work alongside you for religious communities and for a nation in which you can live in peace, equality and dignity.

I also reaffirm my commitment to stand in solidarity with Muslim Americans, also precisely as a Christian, and to work alongside you for a nation in which you too can live in peace, equality and dignity.

My heart goes out to the families and friends whose grief is today only just beginning. Each and every human life is sacred. Fifty such lives were just ended.

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David Gushee

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  • Regarding the murder of 50 gay people today in Orlando by a young Muslim man:

    This is the result of the toxic religion that falls so easily from the lips of religionists. And please, spare me that this is just another facet of Islam, and has nothing to do with the toxic spew from so many so-called Christians, whether they are calling for our deaths, calling for our imprisonment, or calling us threats to everything good and holy, or claiming we are mocking God, or whatever other nonsense they are vomiting from their dark hearts.

    And especially, when they claim to love me but hate my sin. You CANNOT love me and hate my sin. Because it is not a sin, despite what your holy book allegedly says. It is how I live and love and fulfill my life, the same as any heterosexual. And to hate this not-sin, and to wish it gone from my life and from the world to satisfy YOUR religious impulses, is all about you, and not about me. And it doesn’t say anything nice about you OR your religion.

    Love the sinner and hate the sin? How about this? WE drop every word, every qualification, after the very first word, and leave it at LOVE. Because, personally, I find this so called love that you profess completely indistinguishable from hate.

    The father of this mass murderer said that his son was angry because he saw two men kissing in Miami. Your son was angry because he saw two men kissing? There is more Bullscheiss in that statement than resides in every cow in the state of Texas.

    Your son was angry because he had been taught to hate and fear, whether by his religion, by you, or by political religionists or religious politicians who see gay people as less than human, as disposable, as as fodder for their never ending quests for power, money, and dominion. And will these political maggots do anything about the easy access to weapons of mass destruction in our so-called civilized society? Most assuredly, no. If the murders of several dozen children a few years ago couldn’t do it, the murder of 50 despised adults will not even merit a ho-hum. They might wring their hands once, or even twice, utter a few meaningless platitudes, and perhaps even deplore the tragedy, in a vague, general sort of a way. But do anything? Not a chance.

    The fundelibangelist “leaders” will of course say something about it, for a while. But eventually, their guard will drop, and the truth of what they really feel will come through. Wages of sin, God will not be mocked, god’s wrath at sinful America, and all of that moral rot. And then, they’ll be back to “God says…the bible says…” And business as usual.

    This young vermin was angry for the obvious reason. I am increasingly convinced the the worst, the most vicious, and the most virulent of those opposed to our right to live our lives as free men and women and equal participants in society, whether religious or not, are homo-hating Homosexuals who cannot bear the thought that we are allowed to do just that, when they have confined themselves to the prisons of their small minds, shriveled hearts, minuscule souls, and over-mastering fears that someone will find out about them. Maybe even the God of love that they pretend to worship.

    Look to yourselves, bible-believing, so-called Christians. You’re not much better than these Islamist monsters. It wasn’t so long ago that you were doing the same, under color of law, one gay person at a time, whether by prison, judicial murder, legalized discrimination, or presenting no alternative but suicide. Now, you can only attempt to murder our souls by doing everything you can to force us back into the closet, to enable discrimination under color of law, to tell the slandering, reviling lies you tell with the smug assurance that you, like your Islamist brethren, are simply doing god’s work.

    Be assured. This will galvanize us and our loved ones, friends, families, neighbors and colleagues even more. This Islamist may have murdered 50 of us, but has infuriated and energized millions more.

  • “It is becoming increasingly clear to me that in our society, prone to murderous attacks with high-grade weapons, all soft targets need to be “hardened.”
    That’s called the “right to keep and bear arms.”

  • So you’re judging our sin here aren’t you? Trying to say we’re wrong?

    How can you love us while thinking we’re wrong?

    I think btw that you ought to have the right to defend yourself. That is why we have the 2nd amendment. But the people promoting your freedom to have sex with whoever you want (and also apparently the freedom to not ever hear any opinion that says it’s wrong) are the same people who are taking that right away from both you AND me. Please think about that.

  • Muhammad commanded: “If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done” (Sunan Abu Daud 4447).

    Isis is throwing gay men off buildings in public display; burning them alive. Call it whatever you want Gushee but don’t forget to call it what it is: Radical Islam.

  • Of course I’m judging your sin. I’m not a Christian. And of course you are wrong– dead wrong.

    I don’t love you. Again, I’m not a Christian. And therefore, I don’t need to pretend to love everyone. But I also don’t hate you. I just wish you’d shut the hell up, mind your own business and mind your own sins, and stay the hell out of our lives.

    No one is promoting anyone’s right to have sex with anyone we feel we want to. That’s your issue again, not mine. You can say it’s wrong; I really don’t care what you believe. What I care about is what you do with your beliefs, especially when you try to force your purely theological concerns into Civil law with the intent of controlling and interfering with my life.

    But you are right here. There is not a huge difference between you and the Islamists, which was the point of my piece. both of you are intent on eradicating what you call sin on the lives of others, no matter what the cost to those others. The different is that you are constrained by the civil law that you wish to turn into the Christian version of sharia. For them, civil law and sharia are the same.

  • Can we call the Christians who wish to see us executed– and they do exist–in prison, excluded from society, denied the right to protect our families and loves, fired from our jobs…

    Islamists?

    Or will you settle for Good Chrisitan?

  • It is so easy – and obvious – to blame radical Islam for this massacre. However, the other elephant in the room is the second amendment to the US Constitution.

    The United States suffers one gun massacre after another. The perpetrators might be unhinged, religious zealots, racist bigots, or all three. Even so, these crimes occur far more frequently in the United States than other countries. Why? Think Second Amendment.

    No matter what the other causes might be, it’s always: “Have Second Amendment: have gun massacres.”

  • The “right to bear arms” has proved to be a great way of arming the fanatics and the lunatics. The “right to bear arms” is part of the problem, not the solution.

  • You’ll have to tell that to your fellow Christians. They are the ones pressing for changes in your church. I don’t care what you believe, as I said. If you don’t like civil rights laws that protect people from discrimination on the basis of religious belief, then get rid of them, but not just for one group. If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get gay married. I won’t invite you to my wedding. Nor will I expect a gift. Disapprove of gay sex? Don’t have it, or stop thinking about it.

  • I totally disagree with you. The IMAM in Orlando condoned the shooter, who called 911 giving Allah praise for what he was about to do. If gun ownership were what you are stating, then we would have always been the country of mass murders, and it wouldn’t be Muslim, or blacks doing the shootings. It would be everybody. This is an all of a sudden thing and during this Presidents’ administration, while he touts ending gun ownership for this nation. See the connection? Take away gun ownership from the peaceable, free American, and we loose our capabilities to stop armed military from taking us into the nearest FEMA camp. I could continue,….

  • This was a Muslim giving praise to Allah, condoned by the local IMAM for having done so. What news source are you reading?

  • More government control. Okay, you go and surrender yet one more of your freedoms, no thank you, I will keep mine.

  • “No location where civilians gather should be unguarded in the United States, and those that are lightly guarded need stronger armed security.”

    Unfortunately, you may be right. Unfortunately, the terrorist himself worked for a security company.

  • Yes…I wish “conservative” Christians would stop condescendingly comparing their tawdry sins with my love. They are not comparable at all.

    Not to mention disparaging minority relationships as just being about ‘sinful sexual activities’ has been done before in America, so you would think that Americans would no better.

  • The terrorist was not condoned by a “local Imam,” unless maybe you think that Orlando is a suburb of Qom Iran. He wasn’t even condoned by the horrible, homophobic visiting ‘scholar,’ Farrokh Sekaleshfarto,himself, for that matter, which is probably the person you have in mind.

    If you could type what you wrote, you could have at least spent a few minutes checking to see if it were true. This seems to be a reliable report.

    http://fusion.net/story/313063/orlando-terror-attack-muslim-lgbt/

  • Gay American Imam Daayiee Abdullah ‘Heartbroken’ by Orlando Murders
    ‘The goal of’ these murders ‘is to sequester and keep us hidden.’

    It’s on the “Daily Beast” website.

    Islam in not a monolithic cult….though there seem to be some extremists who want it that way. Probably the same with other religions.

  • The terrorist was not condoned by a “local Imam,” unless maybe you think that Orlando is a suburb of Qom Iran. He wasn’t even condoned by the horrible, homophobic visiting ‘scholar,’ Farrokh Sekaleshfarto,himself, for that matter, which is probably the person you have in mind.

    If you could type what you wrote, you could have at least spent a few minutes checking to see if it were true. This seems to be a reliable report.

    Orlando played host to anti-gay Muslim speaker, just weeks ago

    By Sarah McClure Updated 6/13/2016

    It’s on the Fusion website

  • Gay American Imam Daayiee Abdullah ‘Heartbroken’ by Orlando Murders
    ‘The goal of’ these murders ‘is to sequester and keep us hidden.’

    It’s on the “Daily Beast” website.

    Islam in not a monolithic cult….though there seem to be some extremists who want it that way. Probably the same with other religions.

  • If the right to bear arms means that lunatics and fanatics have easy access to assault rifles, then it’s part of the problem. Your right to life would be more secure if lunatics found it more difficult to get weapons of mass murder.

  • You need to be on lithium, the army is not going to put you in FEMA camps, and if they did want to, no amount of AR-15s would stop them from either killing you or putting you in a camp. I appreciate your utter lack of concern for the lives of your fellow citizens, its people like you that are entirely whats wrong with this country.

  • I suppose you would have us forget about the christian terrorist from Indiana who was stopped before he could carry out an even bigger atrocity at the gay pride parade in LA that same morning? Homophobia is an American problem, not a Muslim one.

  • Here’s your site:
    dailyclash.com/2016/06/watch-imam-orlando-mosque-says-gays-must-die/

  • I have tired to post twice and Religious News Service won’t let me.
    Go to the Daily Clash. The article is in there and the local IMAM is praising the killing of gays.

  • Countess, I think you’re distorting the news.

    * One imam said we should “look at the issue of mass shootings” in America. http://www.allenbwest.com/michellejesse/just-in-muslim-imam-makes-stunning-statement-about-orlando-shooting That’s not condoning a mass shooting.

    * An openly gay imam said, “Violence is never an answer to resolve issues of political, religious, racial or ethical differences,” http://abcnews.go.com/US/openly-gay-imam-reacts-sundays-shooting-orlando/story?id=39821872 That’s not condoning a mass shooting.

    * The leader of the mosque that Mateen attended did not condone the massacre. http://www.local10.com/news/fort-pierce-imam-says-orlando-shooting-suspect-often-came-to-pray-with-son

    * Yes, there is a link to an Islamic leader of concern, https://pjmedia.com/homeland-security/2016/06/12/orlando-night-club-attack-by-known-wolf-terrorist-previously-investigated-by-fbi/ and there are others. http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/06/12/orlando-gunman-tied-to-radical-imam-released-from-prison-last-year-say-law-enforcement-sources.html These are the people who should be investigated rather than your “imam in Orlando”

    In Australia we had massacres including the Hoddle Street Massacre, 1987 (7 deaths), the Queen Street massacre 1987 (9 deaths), the Central Coast Massacre (1992) 6 deaths, (the Strathfield Massacre (8 deaths), and the Port Arthur Massacre in 1996 (35 deaths). Then the gun laws were tightened. The gun laws were also tightened in the United Kingdom after the Dunblane School Massacre in 1996.

    The United States has a far higher rate of gun deaths than comparable countries. See http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-u-s-gun-deaths-compare-to-other-countries/ Even world-wide, the US has high rates of gun deaths. http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2015/12/07/458815891/the-u-s-is-a-world-leader-in-gun-deaths

  • If you define information as facts, then no, its not. There is a zero percent chance of that right wing fantasy ever happening outside of a movie. Also, that is a really terrible thing to say about the members of our military, how can you possibly suggest that the military would ever follow such orders. Its made up entirely of volunteer patriots, not a single one of them would ever participate in any large scale rounding up of American Citizens. Finally, all the guns in the country and all the ammo for them wont do a damn thing against even an up armored HMMWV, much less an M1A2 or predator drone… To sum up, what you are scared of has never even been discussed, if somebody tried, everybody else would simply arrest them for it, and finally IF somehow it did happen, you couldn’t do a darn thing about it anyway. So yes, you are in fact insane.

  • You sure he wasn’t talking about the white christian kid from Indiana? You know the one who got arrested on his way to commit an even bigger atrocity at the pride parade in L.A.? Homophobia and guns are the two problems, religion has got nothing to do with it.

  • Here we go again, guns don’t kill, people do. And they don’t need a gun to do it with.

  • My, my, my, sticks and stones, how YOU talk. It doesn’t matter one twit what you think of me………………………

  • Gonna add Narcolepsy to your list of problems? Perhaps you really should take the easy way out, sounds like your life is messed up!

  • 100% in agreement. If only they would stop comparing the logs in their eyes to the motes in mine.

    But that would probably be too Jesus-y for them.

  • “I return to the kind of massacre that is essentially inconceivable in that more placid, less gun-ridden land”

    Like France.

  • If only we didn’t have a right to bear arms, like France, this sort of thing would just be impossible.

  • Yeah, Hadiths are really dumb.

    Though you’re wrong. “Radical Islam” is still purposefully vague. We know the name of the movement responsible for this kind of thing, and that name is “Salafism”. Though no one has the actual balls to call it Salafism. Leaders and the people parroting them stick to the more politically correct “Radical Islam” because if we called it what it IS, that is Salafism, we’d be implicating our ally, Saudi Arabia, the inventors, source, and primary pusher of Salafism worldwide.

    Don’t be PC. Don’t call it Radical Islam. Call the Salafi Movement for what it is. The US’s Salafi allies are the only reason our leaders won’t call it for what it is.

  • Re: “But the people promoting your freedom to have sex with whoever you want (and also apparently the freedom to not ever hear any opinion that says it’s wrong) are the same people who are taking that right away from both you AND me.”

    Since when do you have any “right” — by virtue of your beliefs — to craft your own religion’s disapproval of gays into law and then force an entire country to live by them? Please, tell me where that “right” comes from. I’m not aware of its source. Perhaps you’ll enlighten me on that.

    Also, specifically re: “… the freedom to not ever hear any opinion that says it’s wrong …”

    That’s not at issue here, and it never was. This is an inaccurate — not to mention infantile — interpretation. People who don’t hold the same beliefs as you, know very well that you have them, and don’t object to you voicing them. “Hearing opinions” isn’t a problem. The real problem is having those opinions encoded into law and then forced on everyone regardless of whether or not they all hold them.

    I get that you and your ilk would like to control the planet as you once did. You’d like there never to be any gays, ever again. You want them all to go away, and if they refuse, you want the government to repress them severely. They are, after all, unrepentant reprobates who deserve nothing and should be given nothing but harassment. Once you’re done wiping them out, you’ll turn your attention to other kinds of unrepentant reprobates, like atheists and other kinds of non-believers; then you’ll go after folks whose religions aren’t of the Abrahamic sort; then you’ll go after Muslims; then Jews; then you’ll train your theological guns on each other and go after “heretics” and other sorts of unacceptable folk of the same religion.

    Yeah, I get it. I get it all. Really. I do. Honest! I understand completely. What you want is your own theological utopia, in which everyone uniformly believes and lives according to your own faith’s wishes and nothing contrary exists. That way you never have to face any religious opposition. You can look around and see nothing but other believers in your own religion and feel better about being part of it … perhaps you’ll even feel as though it finally has some veracity, because nothing else remains.

    But how will you have achieved that? Not by having been proven correct. You’ll have done it simply by hounding everything else into oblivion, having wielded your sanctimonious outrage as a weapon against whatever offends you. How much of a triumph, however, will that be, really?

  • “Worst shooting rampage in modern America”?
    Not Hardly!
    Remember Wacko? The Branch Davidians?
    BTW It was Democrats that did that fiasco!

    Waco siege https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waco_siege
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Suspected weapons violations.[1]
    Goals
    ATF attempted to serve search and arrest warrants; FBI attempted to end ensuing siege.

    Result
    Four ATF agents and six Branch Davidians killed in initial raid. A 51-day siege ensued, ending with an FBI assault during which the compound burned down, killing 76 people inside including David Koresh. Eleven people who left the compound were arrested.[2]

    Casualties
    4 ATF agents killed, 16 wounded.

    Branch Davidians killed…
    6 killed on February 28.
    76 killed on April 19.
    The Waco siege was a siege of a compound belonging to the religious group Branch Davidians by American federal and Texas state law enforcement and US military between February 28 and April 19, 1993.[4] The Branch Davidians, a sect that separated in 1955 from the Seventh-day Adventist Church, was led by David Koresh and lived at Mount Carmel Center ranch in the community of Elk, Texas,[5][6][7] nine miles (14 kilometers) east-northeast of Waco. The group was suspected of weapons violations, causing a search and arrest warrant to be obtained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

    The incident began when the ATF attempted to raid the ranch. An intense gun battle erupted, resulting in the deaths of four government agents and six Branch Davidians. Upon the ATF’s failure to raid the compound, a siege was initiated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the standoff lasting 51 days. Eventually, the FBI launched an assault and initiated a tear gas attack in an attempt to force the Branch Davidians out of the ranch. During the attack, a fire engulfed Mount Carmel Center. 76 people died,[8][9] including David Koresh.

  • You got it so right. Most of the 9/11 mass-murderers came from Saudi Arabia but nothing changed. There is no such thing as “radical” Islam. There are just some Muslims who take their scriptures at face value, and some who don’t but can’t admit the “troublesome” commandments of Allah even exist. Among those who really believe it when Allah told Muslims to conquer the world by the sword there are 2 types, the doers and their supporters.

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