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Lingering in Lament After the Orlando Massacre

As many of you know, 49 victims were killed and many more were injured in a shooting at Pulse Orlando, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Even as we learn their names, we mourn for the victims:

Edward Sotomayor Jr
Stanley Almodovar III
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo
Juan Ramon Guerrero
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz
Luis S. Vielma
Kimberly Morris
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice
Darryl Roman Burt II
Deonka Deidra Drayton
Alejandro Barrios Martinez
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez
Amanda Alvear
Martin Benitez Torres
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon
Mercedez Marisol Flores
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez
Oscar A Aracena-Montero
Enrique L. Rios, Jr.
Miguel Angel Honorato
Javier Jorge-Reyes
Joel Rayon Paniagua
Jason Benjamin Josaphat
Cory James Connell
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez
Luis Daniel Conde
Shane Evan Tomlinson
Juan Chevez-Martinez
Jerald Arthur Wright
Leroy Valentin Fernandez
Tevin Eugene Crosby

Forty-nine people are dead (50 including the shooter). Families are grieving the loss of brothers, sons, daughters, mothers, and sisters. An entire city is mourning over what is the largest mass shooting in the history of the United States.

In faith, I hope the church isn’t remaining silent today. We can’t sit by, “righteously” removed from the loss of life that has happened. We must lead the charge to comfort, not condemn; to mourn, not ignore; to lament, not blame. We can’t allow others who are spewing hate and vitriol in the name of Jesus to poison this well. We need to speak slower, love harder, hug longer as we seek to silence those who preach a hate-filled pseudo-gospel.

We have a biblical mandate to grieve with those who grieve. There are the handful who immediately and openly proclaim that this tragedy is a result of sin or a lack of gun control or lax policing. There are others who retweet an article on the tragedy while harboring feelings that perhaps this end was well deserved. But I have been encouraged by the posts I’ve seen and the people I respect who are reaching out after the Orlando massacre—many of us refuse to fall into these traps as we recognize the value of each of those lives that have been lost.

With Charleston, S.C. as my hometown, when the shootings happened last year at Emanuel AME, I felt physical pain for days, and I wasn’t alone. Churches around the nation hosted vigils for the nine people who died. Believers wept and held each other, feeling deeply bonded over their loss. But yesterday we experienced another grave loss, 50 losses in fact. May we acknowledge that God beautifully and intentionally made each of these victims in His image. May we still faithfully attend the prayer vigils that will be held and weep with those who are weeping because we recognize that lives lost in a nightclub are no less valuable than those lost in a church.

Today I stand with those who are seeking to fill the void of love the church has often shown towards the gay community. Our grief cannot be curbed by disagreement or disapproval. Violence against the LGBTQ community must end, and we, who believe so fervently in the sanctity of human life, must champion this cause.

Now is the time to for the church to act as she should. Now is the time for reckless, radiant selflessness. Now is the time for deep, difficult lament. Too often we rush this part—we get grief wrong. Henri Nouwen once wrote that “the friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” Teach us to lament, Lord. Teach us how to be uncomfortable and unsure as we wade through this debilitating darkness with others. Even after the 24-hour news cycle has passed, show us how to remember everything we’ve lost.

“Many people are looking for an ear that will listen,” writes Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking when they should be listening.” May we learn to love and listen. May Jesus come soon and heal this broken world filled with broken people. Until then, may His peace comfort us in the face of something so senseless, and may we comfort each other with the hope we have.

Have mercy, Jesus, and teach us what love looks like today.

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About the Author

Joy Beth Smith
Joy Beth Smith

Joy Beth Smith hails from Charleston, SC, but she’s left pieces of her heart in Lynchburg, VA, Nashville, TN, and Chicago, IL. Joy Beth is passionate about connecting with other singles, and with the abundance of faulty theology surrounding singleness, marriage, and dating, she hopes to contribute to the ongoing conversations revolving around these issues. Joy Beth enjoys writing, reading, and coffee drinking, and you can often find her lurking in the corner of a local coffee shop pretending to read while shamelessly eavesdropping.

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