Rev. Jim McDonald
President and Professor of Faith and Public Life
San Francisco Theological Seminary
June 14, 2016
Once again, our hearts are broken. Once again, we weep for lives cut short or forever damaged, for families whose eyes are swollen with tears of agony, for stunned friends devastated by the painful, pointless loss of a loved one. Once again, the cold chill of fear stalks our spirits.
The horror of what happened at a nightclub called Pulse in Orlando, Florida, this week – the largest mass shooting in U. S. history – turns the stomach and darkens the soul. Forty-nine people lost their lives to senseless violence; 53 were wounded. Most of the victims were gay, Latino/Latina, or both. The massacre took place in what the LGBTQ community has long considered a haven, a sanctuary, from the violence, bigotry, and indignities that they regularly experience. It was an act of terrorism and a hate-crime, designed to traumatize and obliterate.
What we are seeing is the growing presence of evil in our time. The gunman’s reprehensible violent act is emblematic of a Zeitgeist of fear and hatred that has infected the United States and countries around the world. The gunman, born in New York and son of an immigrant from Afghanistan, claimed allegiance to the Islamic State and had often voiced his hatred of minorities, women, gays, and Jews. His killing was cold and calculated, a twisted act of misappropriated religious conviction and moral self-righteousness.
As Christians we should not let ourselves be overwhelmed or paralyzed in response to such acts of evil. Through Jesus Christ, we affirm that love is stronger than hate, goodness is stronger than evil, and life is stronger than death. As people of faith we rejoice that the God who made heaven and earth loves the world and all God’s creatures. And we pledge to love our neighbors as ourselves, to welcome the stranger in our midst, to seek justice for the oppressed, to look with compassion on all people, and to search our hearts for the courage to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. And, as an act of Christian citizenship, we will pursue the adoption of sensible gun laws until they are finally and fully the law of the land.
Our hearts go out in love to the victims and their family and friends for such an unimaginable loss. We pledge our solidarity with the Latino/Latina, LGBTQ, Muslim, and immigrant communities as they struggle to find and experience full acceptance and respect as citizens and human beings made in the image of God. Martin Luther King said it best: “We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish together as fools.”