June 13, 2016

 January 24, 2014 

My friends,

We are once again at that profound intersection of grief and righteous anger. Once again, we are in the wake of an unspeakable act of gun violence in our nation. The deaths of at least 50 people in an attack on an Orlando nightclub is being called the largest mass causality shooting in U.S. history. The nightclub appears to have been deliberately targeted by a homophobic religious zealot who wanted to inflict significant carnage where LGBT people gather. We don't know much else about Omar Mateen, the shooter. We will learn more in the days to come about the complex ideological motivation for his actions. But of this we can be sure: he lashed out at a group of people who have often been the target of violence because of their identity.

We are dealing now with so many complicated emotions -- fear, anger, grief, sorrow, and indignation. We are looking for reasons this occurred. Yet, we must struggle mightily with the temptation to scapegoat a segment of our world or national citizenry. It is important to remember that of all the gun violence of the past year, only a handful can be directly linked to religious fundamentalists associated with ISIS or their ilk. Scapegoating leads inextricably to the crucifixion of the innocent. We know this all too well, given the Savior we follow was likewise a scapegoat of national anxiety. And though our hearts are breaking and we grieve in solidarity with the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting, I believe we do ourselves a disservice if we focus too intently on identity politics of this tragic incident and not on the broader issues of violence in our scarred society.

Last year there were over 350 mass shootings in the United States (defined as four or more victims per event). This makes it somewhat disingenuous to refer to this as the worst mass shooting. We have a cumulative record to consider. We may forget that our own national history still carries the shame of the massacre at Wounded Knee and the slower genocide of slavery and other forms of bigotry, including homophobia. In the past year, we have lost neighborhood children, people attending a church Bible study, and college students sitting in a classroom, just to name a few. Each time we cry out, "Enough!" Some politicians think "enough" means targeting whole groups of people as the root cause, and binding our wounds by inflicting indignity and separation on those who are not "us." We know this is wrong. Yet, the President said yesterday as he addressed the nation, " ... to actively do nothing is a decision as well."

What then shall we do? We can pray for the victims and their families and for the recovery of those who are currently receiving medical care. We can come together in solidarity with our Cincinnati neighbors when the cathedral hosts a Community Service of Remembrance and Prayer for the Victims of Gun Violence in Orlando. This will be this Wednesday evening, June 15, at 6:00 pm. But you can do even more. Find places where you can plant the seeds of peace. Correct anyone who makes anti-Islamic statements in your presence. Log on to Americans for Responsible Solutions and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence to learn more.

Please join me as we pray for God's guidance, and the courage and will to fulfill what God asks of us.

May the peace that passes all understanding abide in our hearts, 

The Very Rev. Gail Greenwell, Dean
Christ Church Cathedral