There I go again – a misleading title.
Actually, there are very few points that one can draw from the terrible events in Orlando last night. When we drove away from Columbus last year we were shocked at the news coming out of Charleston, SC – a white supremacist loner had killed 9 people at a Bible study at a black church on Wednesday night. Now, as we are headed to St. Louis, we hear about the Islamic terrorist who killed at least 50 people in a gay bar in Orlando.
Our immediate tendency is to start trying to make generalities and to draw conclusion – to do what my title did in jest, to buttress our political or theological viewpoints based on the tragedy.
- We are always so quick to opine and generalize about the situation. Assign blame. Pin the tail on the politicians.
- We’ve become adept at pre-judging, a Nancy Grace nation that finds a Richard Jewell and convicts him whether the evidence exists or not.
- And while we disdain spin doctors, we’ve mastered the art. I’m sure there’s already articles on some of the click bait conservative sites pinning this shooting on Obama and Hillary and an equal number of lefty sites fixing blame on Trump or Bush or Reagan.
But, when tragedy hits, we can be better than that. I’d offer some suggestions.
1. Don’t jump to conclusions.
Yes, the murderer here was Islamic, but we don’t know yet whether this was organized jihad or a nutcase. Before we opine, why not wait a day or two and let the facts surface?
Of course, radical Islam is a real issue, but can’t we wait to make sure this was that before we pass sentence?
2. This is not the time.
A while back, ISIS militants marched some Coptic Christians out and beheaded them. While their blood was still damp, certain bloggers were explaining that these were not “real Christians” because of their heterodox beliefs.
There’s a time and a place for a discussion of Coptic doctrine. That wasn’t it. This isn’t a time to discuss our feelings about homosexuality or any of the other issues. Let the crisis pass, then we can talk about the big issues.
3. Be careful of smug truth.
Even truth, declared publicly on socia media, can come across smug and insensitive. If your audience is all Christian, it’s one thing, but lost people may not understand our declarations of truth and our dogmatic proclamations.
It is not that we should be ashamed of truth, but there is a time for tact. When I preach the funeral of one I believe to be lost, I don’t stand and consign him to the flames. I proclaim Christ’s saving grace but I use a little tact.
Simply put, we must consider how our actions and our words will be perceived by those who do not share our faith. A little tact is not inimical to clear gospel proclamation.
4. It is acceptable not to speak.
One of the unique realities of our modern day is that we tend to believe we have to say something about everything. We don’t. You don’t have to make a statement about anything, ever. Making a statement is often our modern substitute for taking real and significant action. If I put a French flag on my Facebook, or a Christan symbol, or make a grand statement of some kind, I give myself the impression I’ve done something.
One Trump voter has chastised us several times for not condemning the violence against Trump supporters. Is there a rule that if I don’t make a statement against something, I am for it? Must I make a post listing everything in the world I am against so that no one mistakes my intentions? Of course not.
It is perfectly acceptable, as a Christian, for me to feel bad about what happened in Orlando but not make a public statement about it. I need not say anything profound, unless I have something profound to say. Sometimes we fall into the error of Job’s friends, feeling we have to solve everything with our 140 character tweets or our Facebook memes.
5. Brutal tragedy almost never deserves a meme!
I like a good meme as much as the next guy, but by their nature they tend to trivialize and reduce big issues to the absurd. When something big is happening and you see a meme coming around, it’s likely that your best choice is to think twice, thrice, and then again before you hit the share button. When 50 people lie dead on a dance floor in Orlando, it’s time to grieve, to pray, and to seek God, but it is probably not the time to share memes.
Now, it’s my turn to drive, so I’m gonna hit the publish button.