As the American public pores over every possible cause for Omar Mateen’s act of evil atrocity at the gay nightclub in Orlando, one label we should not place upon it is, “surprising.” We can debate an ISIS connection, domestic terrorism, or a hate crime until the cows come home. But we have no right calling it a surprise. This shooting was hardly unique among evil’s long list of heinous ways to take out a human life.
America’s love of free flowing guns is as close to worship as anything I know in the public sphere. Our gun fetish has reached the level of unquestioned idolatry. Why would you question something that guarantees your safety and security? Never mind that a gun can’t sustain that guarantee, or that we can’t stop ourselves from believing in it. We have enshrined the divinity of guns, including assault weapons, inside an impenetrable temple called “my Second Amendment rights.”
That 32,288 people in the United States should die of gunshot wounds in a single year (2012 is the most recent year for complete data) is both tragic and absurd. We quickly drum up lines about “our thoughts and prayers being with victims and their families,” which, while true, is mostly a passive phrase that lacks compelling action to change our gun-loving culture.
It makes no sense to me that we would glorify violence as a form of entertainment, and then suddenly turn against it in horror when it proves not to be fiction in real life. Call me “soft” or “a coward” for refusing to watch violent movies, but I have never acquired the taste for being able to delight in people machine-gunning each other to death. I find it curious that we actually pay money to view gratuitous gun violence. Yet, according to box office revenues, the vast majority of Americans still find it a thrill.
My heart bleeds for the victims and families connected with the Orlando shooting. So does yours. I have a deep commitment to not let a crime like this Orlando one feed more fear in my life. So, may I assume, do you. I have a high desire to prize what we owe God and our neighbor in the way of love ABOVE what we get to do because we have certain personal rights established in our country. So, may I hope, do you.
Together we grapple with how best to do all of these things, eager for fresh purpose in doing so, and inspired by the unfortunate recognition that this latest shooting is no surprise.
– Peter Marty, senior pastor