Last week, a lone gunman attacked a gay club in Orlando, Florida. Fifty people were killed, making this modern America’s worst mass shooting tragedy. We may never know for sure what the gunman’s motives were, although we do know that he made calls to 911 and the police claiming to be influenced by ISIS. For the purposes of this post, though, his motives are irrelevant.
An outpouring of grief and condolences followed. But not by everyone. Some Christians used the massacre as an opportunity to further their agenda of hatred towards the LGBT community in the most extraordinary ways.
The highest profile of these is Pat Robertson, front man of the 700 Club TV show. He used his show to claim that liberal LGBT rights advocates have aligned themselves with radical Islamists and are now reaping what they have sowed. Robertson said that liberals are facing a dilemma because they love both LGBT equality and Islamic extremism, and that it is better for conservatives like himself not to get involved but to instead just watch the two groups kill each other. Watch the video for yourself if you don’t believe me. For further quotations where Roberston explains this “dilemma” in even more detail, see this article from Right Wing Watch.
Then, in a sermon so filled with hate that YouTube has since removed it for violating their policy on hate speech, Sacramento pastor Roger Jimenez of Verity Baptist Church said, “Are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today? Um no, I think that’s great! I think that helps society. I think Orlando, Florida is a little safer tonight…. I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a wall, put a firing squad in front of them and blow their brains out…. The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is — I’m kind of upset that he didn’t finish the job!”
Another pastor, Steven Anderson, from Faithful Word Baptist Church, Arizona, uploaded a video that is still available on Vimeo. It’s a horrific video in which he refers to LGBT people repeatedly as “sodomites”, “pedophiles” and “homos”.
His video praises the “good news” that “there are 50 less pedophiles in this world.” He added that, “the bad news is that a lot of the homos in the bar are still alive, so they’re going to continue to molest children and recruit children into their filthy homosexual lifestyle.”
“I’m not sad about it, I’m not gonna cry about it because these 50 people in the gay bar that got shot up were going to die of AIDS and syphilis and whatever else,” he continued. “At least these dangerous, filthy predators are off the streets. I’m just trying to look on the bright side…. God bless you, and have a great day.”
I know these are extreme views and do not represent mainstream Christianity. I also know that many Christian leaders have condemned these statements (and Robertson’s PR machine has made a very lame attempt to walk back his comments).
But a few weeks ago, I reported on the hate speech coming from Franklin Graham and James Dobson (see here). These are two very prominent leaders of evangelical Christianity in America, both of whom openly hinted that violence against gays should be condoned. These hateful attitudes towards the LGBT community are not isolated examples, they are sadly the norm from key leaders within evangelical Christianity in America (and elsewhere).
So here’s something you should hear at your church, but probably won’t: When your version of Christianity cannot even mourn the death of fellow human beings, you know your version of Christianity is broken. And, to be clear, by “broken” I mean “un-Christlike”.
For those conservative Christians who believe that being gay is sinful, this is the side you’re on. You may not personally “hate” gay people, and you may be as appalled as I am at the statements these Christian leaders have made, but this is the side you are on. That must surely give you pause for thought. Maybe, just maybe, you need to come over to the side of love. Maybe it’s time to evaluate whether your version of Christianity is indeed the right one. Because the version of Christianity you’re holding onto leads to the type of statements quoted above.
Let me say again: any version of Christianity that rejects fellow human beings, and celebrates their deaths, is broken. Simple. As. That.