I was going to write something funny, but then Sunday morning happened.
I’ve been writing little articles in my head for the last three weeks. Two weeks ago was Memorial day weekend and as I write on Mondays (and I was off on Monday), I didn’t get a chance to write anything. This last Monday the battery in my Prius breathed its last and so I spent last Monday searching for a car to lease… so another article stuck in my brain. And as I was driving to church Sunday morning, I was writing yet another article in my head, but then Bruce, our church musician, stopped me as I was walking into the sanctuary with, “did you hear what happened in Orlando?”
In case you somehow missed it, 50 people were killed in an Orlando nightclub and it was done in the name of religion.
There is a fair amount of unpacking going on now where they talk to the shooter’s ex-wife (who calls him unstable and abusive), the shooter’s parents (who said he was not that religious), and ISIS (who he pledged his loyalty to and who (supposedly) praised his violence). And getting to the truth of the matter is important, but what I have been unable to get out of my mind is that we lost 50 people, that these tragedies continue to happen, and that as we look ahead to an incredibly divisive general election we will see the potential of becoming even more divided as a people, planet, country, state, city, church.
This nightclub in Orlando was a gay night club. The shooter’s parents expressed that he had spoken about being upset at seeing two men kiss. So it makes sense to kill 49 people and wound countless others?
There are so many things that come to mind when we even think about what happened in Orlando that it hard to know where to begin? Talk about how many mass shootings have happened over how many number months? Talk about gun violence in general? Talk about Islam? Talk about LGBQT? Talk about politics? Talk about….
But the problem isn’t necessarily the talking. We have all gotten pretty good at talking. We live in a time where everything is built around giving us opportunities to let our voice be heard… post this, share this, get this many likes if you put up the right picture! We have gotten really good at talking. We have grown terrible at listening.
You think this about mass shootings? Better stop talking ‘cause I’m not listening.
You think this about gun violence? Better stop talking ‘cause I’m not listening.
You think this about Islam? Better stop talking ‘cause I’m not listening.
You think this about LGBQT? Better stop talking ‘cause I’m not listening.
You think this about Politics? Better stop talking ‘cause I’m not listening.
I spend most of my time thinking about what to say. Whether I am writing articles or sermons in my head or putting together presentations or editing websites or sitting in meetings brainstorming ideas, much of what I do is talking. Much of what a lot of us do is talking.
I do not know the solution to all of this. I do not know how to make any of this better. But I do know how it gets worse. If we keep talking without listening they win. Whoever the “they” is that you fear… “they” win. I cannot tell you how many times I have gone to talk to someone that had issue with something I did or said only to find that once we talked we actually agreed on a lot more than we thought we did.
Are we going to get along with everyone? Of course not. But we need to create opportunities to listen. We need to create opportunities to see that our “different” neighbors are not actually that “different.” We need to create opportunities where we can once again see people not as victims and shooters and issues and isms and titles, but as our neighbors, as our brothers and sisters, as fellow humans. We can only doing that by learning to listen again.
Now I’m going to share this article.