With high hopes and confidence in humankind as capable beings, I intend to suggest a method of coping and healing in the days to come following the mass shooting that occurred in Orlando. At a night club, a social meeting place for LGBT individuals, an angry and deranged individual opened fire on unarmed patrons, killing many and wounding more. This is said to have been the largest mass shooting in American history. There are fifty people who have lost their lives and more than fifty are in hospitals and fighting to survive.
Thinking about how does a community rebuild the sense of safety and security after an act of such terror, I thought about what this club meant to those who were there that evening. People gathered to celebrate life: gay life, lesbian life, transgender life. There had been a sense of freedom among those who attended this club. Now, there is a sense of terror, pain, and suffering. That is what terrorists attempt to do – terrorize. How many of us have done the same thing but without firearms or active physical violence?
The notion of rebuilding with inclusion as a premise may be new to some. There has been such a tendency to exclude based on the principles that have been erringly taught from our church pulpits for far too long. Those who proof text verses from the Christian Bible claim to have the monopoly on God, as if a life-giving spirit could be contained by human means. But nonetheless, there are those who have declared that Christianity is the only way, based on what the Christian writings say. These misinterpretations are based on Gentile, especially Western American, interpretations that have no understanding of the Judaic theme that runs throughout these scriptures.
The issue of exclusion is not healthy or mindful. Not only does this same set of religious doctrines teach against exclusion, the individual who these writings claim is the founder of their faith taught against it. The Jesus of the Bible taught in parables and catchy phrases, such as blessed are the poor and stories like the Prodigal Son. This Jesus, the Christian Christ, also taught to love God first and your neighbor as yourself. He never described the neighbor except for indirect suggestions as that made in the parable of the Good Samaritan, which, by the way, has inspired many to do charitable works. But the notion of exclusion is based on a verse or two that have been misinterpreted and misapplied for many years.
Jesus spoke of being the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He said that no one could get to God except through him. The traditional rendering of this is that unless a person believes in Jesus (as if believing something can make you better than someone who does not believe), they cannot go to heaven (a mythological place that the ancients thought was above the sky and clouds). I want to suggest that Jesus was referencing his way of life and the truth he shared. Jesus owned very little and shared what he had or received. He also taught equality of women and Gentiles (non-Jews). Including the sick, blind, mentally ill (mental illness was attributed to demon possession in those days), broken hearted, harlots, tax collectors, and even the religious, he invited people to unite and love each other as God loves us.
So rebuilding with inclusion in mind means not excluding those who may be different than us. No matter what the individual’s physical or spiritual condition or affiliations, we can all learn to be more considerate and refrain from demanding others conform to our ideas. Rebuilding the community in Orlando and the surrounding areas is going to involve rebuilding trust and the sense of safety. Rather than pinpointing our differences, let us all commit to seeing our similarities. We all need companionship, love, a sense of belonging, safety, security, self-worth, and confidence in our ability to make good decisions concerning other’s welfare, as well as our own. If we are not aware of our abilities to do these things, there are people we can ask for help.
(Florida Counseling Association – http://www.flacounseling.org)
(American Counseling Association – http://www.counseling.org)
For help in the Orlando area: contact 407-228-8272