We are almost to the point where people return to business as usual and forget about the 50 lives lost and the 53 survivors whose lives will never be the same because of what happen the night of Saturday, June 11, 2016. But before this horrendous event like so many others that have occurred recede into the recesses of our minds I want to provide an answer to two questions, “What type of society produces people who murder, in this case, 49 people most of whom where under the age of 40?” and “What might we do in our own personal lives to reduce such production?”
Every society is judged by the type of people it develops. Therefore, the development of the Orlando shooter is but another reminder of how far our society has drifted away from social systems which don’t develop people who have lost their humanity. There will be more Omar Mateens because he is but an extreme example of an embodied recapitulation of a deeper issue just like Dylann Roof, Adam Lanza and others whose names are well known to us. In short, we develop mass murderers because we fail to recognize the need to test the truthfulness of long held traditions because our cultural norms don’t develop people who are ready to put traditions into question. People like Mateen are developed by a society that enshrines its traditions rather than constantly questioning them for the purpose of insuring such beliefs are meeting their true purpose which is to form citizens who have the skills to manage the dangers in their milieu insuring their true nature remains unviolated. There are two long held traditions that no longer contribute to developing citizens who act in accordance with their nature and I am not sure if they ever did.
All traditions resourcing the claim that the sole purpose of our society is to provide a sense of security and all traditions anchored in stories of purity develop people who act contrary to their nature as human beings. Omar Mateens was an example of this. Mateen was formed by some version of traditions rooted in purity (i.e. sexual and/or religious purity) made deadly by traditions rooted in safety and security (i.e. the right to bear arms) or some combination thereof. This cannot be denied given the nature of his acts and even more the rational he gave for them. Mateen haphazardly expressed allegiance to a number of terrorist groups claiming Islamic ties while in negotiation with Orlando police before the SWAT team mounted an assault on the club which resulted in Mateen’s death. He also had a reputation for expressing his disdain for homosexuals supported by his religious beliefs. While mental health may have played a role in his actions it hardly gives full voice as the sole reason for them. Mental illness is subject to a context and the context which formed Omar Mateen is that which we all are formed in. And our expressions of how we are formed by these same traditions which developed Mr. Mateen may be different but contribute to us acting in ways contrary to our nature although more subtle, reasonable and religiously motivated. But they are just as deadly because they perpetuate the same self- deception at the heart of Mateen’s actions although revealed differently.
Traditions rooted in sexual and/or religious purity and those anchored in narratives of security made Mateen into a person who believed to kill other human beings is natural. It is contrary to our nature to murder other human beings. Hence, when murder happens it is a form of self-denial because killing is learned denying it’s unnaturalness. Previously mentioned traditions are conduits to such learning because they lead us to deny this reality. This was the case for Mateen but he only represents only one example of how these traditions allows us to deceive ourselves.
The Orlando Massacre secures our belief in our own safety. The two to three week inundation of news regarding the event along with the periodic updates to follow will not disturb our belief in our own security because ironically they comfort us in thinking death only happens to homosexuals. Death only happens to strangers. News briefings on the investigation of the tragedy and how many have been funeralized all act to confirm the vague presumption of our own invulnerability as we remain obtuse to how the entrenched traditions of sexual and religious purity contributed to the deaths of the 50. Traditions regarding what it means to be sexually and theologically pure and futile attempts at security deceive us. The deception is they keep us from using the gifts and developing the skills necessary to live in an unpredictable and dangerous world. Once this deception takes root it leads to injustice of every kind; furthermore, the concealment of danger as a given makes it almost impossible to ride our society of traditions which perpetuate unequal burdens on others. In the case of the people murdered in the Pulse night club and those who loved them the unequal burdens are also blood soaked and tragic ones.
What then are we to do? Attempt to be friends with those whose presence will force you and me to question the traditions we hold dear. Not as a means to dismantle them (which may be needed) but rather as a deterrent to idolatry which always leads us away from our true nature. If we fail to do this we will be subject to the adage, “Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad”.
Thank you for coming into the conversation about living as a Christian or Just to get a Christian perspective on what is on your heart. The purpose of this blog is to promote conversation around the day to day occurrences and issues that visit human existence and attempt to address them in a way which witnesses to Jesus. In short its an attempt to use technology to pastor or provide Christina Education in a world constantly in flux and hopefully be a place which will help myself and others interpret their lives in healthy and loving ways. This blog is not to defend any orthodoxy or church doctrine but rather a place where honest conversation can be rendered between people who are children of God through Jesus Christ seeking to live their lives in God's presence. I hope all who visit here will gain a deeper understanding of who they and others are in Christ and if not at least gain some wisdom to ponder. So, what's on your heart...
Continue to desire the Holy Spirit. She will reveal her work in your life in ways you know not how.
Giving in public or otherwise is less about how it make you feel or whether or not you get rewarded in some way from giving money. There are two sides to my answer to your question. The first is rooted in the teachings of Jesus and the Acts of the Apostles and the second is practical. Jesus teaches the importance of being good manager's of our resources (Luke 16) because if we can be trusted with temporal things points to our trustworthiness in eternal matters. The history of the Christian faith has held to the claim that it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). Last, John 3:16 begins "For God so loved the world that he gave...", therefore, when we give we are witnesses to what we believe to be basic to a life as a child of God. To give communicates to both Christians and others that God has made enough for all to live lives in service to him and others - it is living out in a real way that we believe God is love. When we give we are better witnesses to Jesus than when we receive. As a practical matter, giving allows for the ministry to continue. It always has and it always will. Of course we must be good stewards because every good and perfect gift comes from God. Also, usually when people are reluctant to give it is usually because thy are in debt to earthly gods like credit card companies or their own financial ignorance. People may want to give and not have as much as they wish to give but the story of the widow's mite (Mark 12:41-44) teaches us to give what we can not grudgingly nor because you will get something back (2 Corinthians 9:7) for God loves a cheerful giver. Furthermore, giving is about who we are an not about how we feel. The desire to give comes first then the means to give comes after because a person who wants to give will budget better, will educate themselves on how money works, will do work of some sort because they want to give.
BJ, remember giving is not only about money, you can give in many ways its just that when it comes to money most people use these other ways as a means to keep from giving money rather than understanding that all of it goes together.
Great question hope this is helpful, Pastor Richardson
I am delighted that a conversation of this sort occurred at work. I'm assuming the retort from your colleague regarding Lenten season being a strictly Catholic practice was to excuse observing it. That being said the Lenten season is recognized and practiced by different Christian traditions Baptist, Pentecostal, of course African Methodist not just Catholic because it is a part of the Christian Calendar which all devout Christians hold dear. The reason why the Christian Calendar is important with its various seasons i.e. Christmas Season, Epiphany Season, Lenten Season, Easter Season, etc. is because it is how we remind ourselves in a real way that our lives are marked by Jesus and his ministry. If God is Alpha and the Omega and if we believe it is in him that we live and breath and have our being then our lives need to witness to these absolutes and adhering to the Christian Calendar is a means by which we do this. The church as the body of Christ is not a man made institution Acts and the Epistles prove this therefore its traditions however imperfect if done with a pure heart are helpful on insuring we never forget to whom our ultimate allegiance belongs. God has made us a peculiar people and observing Lent not only assures this is the case but makes our everyday lives a testimony to the fact that it is not I who live but Christ who lives in us.
Peppered throughout this response are references to scripture I leave it up to you or whoever is reading to google them. For the sake of head knowledge which of course Christians hold as means to heart knowledge let me provide some information on Lent. First, the word Lent means Spring or 40 days depending on how you interpret it. The Biblical rational for it is found in Jesus being tempted by the Devil 40 days in the wilderness. No one really knows how it began or who was the first to practice it there are different theories but one thing to remember is whatever the beginning it has stood the test of time and has been used by God to many a devout Christian as a means to spiritual nourishment for man or woman do not live by bread, TV, Sodas, etc. alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
In closing the Bible teaches us whatsoever things are Good, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are of good report, concentrate on these things. Moreover, Christians are taught do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind and we are to love God with all our heart, soul and strength. The question then becomes is observing Lent whether in fasting or some other spiritual practice of good report, can it's observance been seen as a living sacrifice helping not to conform to this world, is it a way we can show our love for God in mind, body and soul? I think the answer must be Yes! And Amen!
Great question Vickie I hope this is helpful to you as you strive to live as a Christian! Keep the faith!