Sunday morning, I woke up — as many of us did — to the news that 50 people had been killed, and 53 more people injured, in Orlando, Florida. It’s the most casualties in any mass shooting in U.S. history.
The shooter is believed to have ties to Islamic extremism. The victims were at a Pulse, a gay nightclub. A religious extremist murdered fifty people, because he felt LGBT individuals deserved to be eradicated.
I read story after story in disbelief. Trying to figure out what had happened. How this had happened. But it was Sunday morning. I was leading a small group at church. I had to be there by 9:30. I had to, you know, GET OFF THE INTERNET and start my day.
At church, we prayed for the victims, we prayed for the families affected. We prayed for God’s power to heal our unjust, broken, hurting world. But let’s not pretend we’re detached from this tragedy. Christians have a long history of opposing the LGBT community. In both personal interactions and in targeted legal efforts, Christians toss around social, spiritual, political weight to push the LGBT community down.
If this is going to become a theological debate, I’ll let you know right now — I don’t have the knowledge, history, or background to win a debate. But here’s what I do know. Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, seems like exactly the kind of place where you would have found Jesus, when he was still on earth. With the other. The marginalized. The people in society with less power, who are misunderstood, stereotyped, de-valued, and held back from having the rights others in the world around them freely enjoyed.
Right now, our nation is facing a crisis of fear. And fear spreads like a cancer. It paralyzes. It makes people take actions they never would have before. My first response is to pray. I hope it always will be. But I prefer to follow prayer with action. I’m not sure what to do, but I have to do something.
Sunday night, I donated my tithe: the money I set aside this month for God (and to help accomplish God’s work on earth) and gave it to the Pulse Victims Fund and The Trevor Project.
- About 2/3 to the Pulse Victims Fund, a GoFundMe effort set up by Equality Florida, a 501(c)3 nonprofit and Florida’s LGBT civil rights organization, which raised $1.2 million in 14 hours.
- And the other 1/3 to The Trevor Project, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that works to combat suicide and otherwise support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth.
Sidenote: I know the first rule of tithing is that you’re not supposed to talk about tithing. What a person feels compelled by God to give is between them and God. Tithing is not a contest, nor is it a shame game. But given the extent of this shooting, and how silent Christians can be on LGBT issues, I want to see more Christians having a voice in this conversation.
I want to support the victims and families hurt by this tragedy, and also to support the millions of LGBT people whose feelings of safety have just been shaken. The GoFundMe appears to be legitimate, but since crowdfunding efforts always have a chance of being misused, I wanted to make sure at least a portion goes to an organization I’m familiar with.
For my friends who are Muslim, I know this shooting will make an already difficult reality even harder to navigate. This tragedy will lead to panic, fear, and distrust of countless innocent Muslims — men and women who aren’t even close to being radical extremists.
There is so much hurt in this tragedy. There is so much pain the Christian church’s history with the LGBT community. I don’t have answers. I don’t have a solution that can erase all that anger, hurt, and pain.
But I can pray. And I can stop obsessively reading news articles, stop scrolling anxiously through Facebook, I can GET OFF THE INTERNET and look for ways to do something.