Weep with them that weep


Someone told me the story of the Earl of Shaftesbury seeing a beggar while out with a friend in his carriage. His friend said ‘I’m sure the Lord will provide’, so Shaftesbury replied ‘He certainly will’ and helped the beggar into his carriage. A few hours later, after crying my waterproof mascara out at Mass, I bought food for a beggar in Clapham. I don’t know whether she was genuine, she certainly was quite dramatic when she discovered the place we went in had put all the food away, but since childhood I’ve always been plagued by the amount of Christian literature reinforcing Matthew 25. I wasn’t going to take a shot with it because we’re hardwired for cynicism and people looked at me puzzled when I went into a nice establishment (the second closest to where she stopped me) to buy something to an unkempt woman. And especially, not yesterday.

A few hours earlier, a man who seems to have affiliation with a famous Islamist plague of our modern world had opened fire in a gay nightclub. It wasn’t the usual mass shooting that happens way too frequently in the US. It wasn’t like the person who targeted Christina Grimmie just the day before.
It was an attack on a specific community. It’s true it extends to the West for letting people be who they are, something that said ideology condemns, and it’s true people shouldn’t be killed full stop. They’re not mutually exclusive statements, but I can sympathise with Owen Jones walking out of an appearance on live TV: people are grieving because if it wasn’t Orlando it could have been them. There’s a time for everything. Now it’s the time for their grief. And we should stand with them.

Instead the Internet thought that it was the time for politics. Let’s blame Islam/say it has nothing to do with religion because we can’t blame Islam. After all, many decent Muslim people are genuinely seeking after God without giving a glance at the hardest parts of their holy book. Never mind that monsters who would easily think these people aren’t devout enough are seeking after their god precisely in those hard parts (here’s a very thoughtful piece from a Muslim convert on the matter). Let’s ask for change to the gun laws in the US. Let’s question whether it would be asked of Christians, since all religions ask for the killing of homosexuals {except that no, if you had any understanding of a) Jewish Law and b) the relationship between Jewish Law and the New Covenant you’d know it’s not true, whatever “Bible-believing pastors” say}, as if the Church wasn’t asked to condemn IRA in its heyday anyway. There are feminists calling for the recognition this was purely male violence. Tweets were doing the rounds about a lone man with a sign about repentance outside the hospital where the victims had been taken. I know the urgency of the good news in bringing people to repentance and therefore salvation, but people were writing about it as “a protestor”. We weren’t told to protest. You may not see it as protesting, but communication is more about the recipient than it is the message itself: if the recipient sees it as such, that’s basically what you’re saying. It’s driving people away. Now it’s time for their grief. The time when they need a loving Father the most.

I wholeheartedly agree with the Gospel Coalition’s 5 steps for how to deal with tragedies like this. Pray. Pause. Grieve. Love. Hope.
Pope Francis released a statement that is drenched with heartbreak. I believe he would be sitting at each bed of the people in hospital, and with every bereaved family who can make no sense of it all. This is where we should be. That’s why people are holding vigils. That’s why people who don’t normally take part to Pride parades are joining them, whether gay themselves or not. The groups represented by the umbrella Christians at Pride in the UK range from conservative ones advocating chastity to liberal ones which advocate for changes in the church to welcome partnerships. There are Catholics and Evangelicals and everything in between. There is no consensus beyond the fact that God loves His creation. Each and everyone of us bears His image, and the choices we make don’t take that away from us. When parents are burying their children, and at least one mother we know has been living through her son’s last moments just like Mary did, that’s all that matters. There will be time to start the conversation about how in Christ death isn’t the end. But now it’s time for their grief. Let us weep with them that weep {Romans 12:15 Douai Rheims}.

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