How many Facebook posts get 214K shares?

In case you are unfamiliar with the world of Facebook that means 214 thousand people chose to click on the share icon and send the words of one person out into the little corner of the internet world they occupy.

Imagine words you write being read by 214 thousand people most of whom you do not know, will never meet, and have no way of following up with to discuss how they receive your words or what they do with the ideas you are disseminating.

Having such an audience is a grave responsibility.

You might think anyone with such a far-reaching public profile would want to use their platform to encourage a compassionate measured response to the kind of atrocity that occurred in Orlando, Florida early Sunday morning on the 12th of June. You might think that anyone with such a vast audience would want to use their pulpit to encourage kindness in the face of horror and gentleness in the face of violence. You might think a person whose words are read so widely would want to make sure his words promote love, especially if the writer considers himself a follower of the man who said,

‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40)

But, not if you are Franklin Graham (see below). If you are Franklin Graham, you want to use your pulpit to attack a belief system you do not understand in an attempt presumably to badger people into adopting your own narrow little view of the world.

Was Omar Mateen a “radical Islamic” terrorist? Or was Omar Mateen a disturbed young man suffering from a serious mental disorder?

His ex-wife said he suffered from mental illness.

Or was Omar Mateen simply a home-grown anti-gay bigot driven by vicious hatred?

His Afghan-immigrant father suggested he may have acted out of anti-gay hatred, and said his son got angry recently about seeing two men kiss.

Or, perhaps most tragically of all, was he a conflicted homosexual struggling with his own sexual identity as some reports seem to be suggesting?

The gunman who killed 49 people in an attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando is said to have been a regular at the venue and had messaged several people on gay dating apps, according to reports.

Regardless, of Mr. Mateen’s motivations for walking into a nightclub and massacring 49 innocent people and wounding 53 others, the Orlando shooting is not a time to cast stones at anyone. It is not a time to build higher walls and point fingers at imagined enemies. It is not a time to sow seeds of fear and dissension. It is certainly not a time to dismiss anyone who happens to have been raised in a different belief system than the one that happens to inform your own little view of the world.

Orlando is a time to reach out across the divides that appear to separate us. It is a time to examine our hearts and ask ourselves what roots of violence, exclusion and disrespect we may be guilty of having sown in our culture. It is a time to look carefully at the communities we are creating and ask how we can work to make them more open and respectful to all people.

Whether Franklin Graham likes it or not, Omar Mateen was his neighbour. The people who died in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and who seem to be invisible to Mr. Graham, were his neighbours. The survivors who lie wounded in hospital are Mr. Graham’s neighbours. The only appropriate Jesus-response to the suffering of these neighbours is to love them more deeply.

How might the world be different if we choose to get to know our neighhbour, listen carefully to their view of the world, and offer a compassionate response to their pain?

The challenge of Orlando is to the gentle art of listening, to kind acts of compassion, and to greater efforts to live with respect and love for every neighbour God brings across our path.

Or, we could just send off a Facebook message to our audience of thousands sowing greater dissension, fear, and polarization, as Mr. Graham chooses to do:

I appreciate President Barack Obama speaking to the nation yesterday in the wake of the Orlando massacre. He was right in saying that this tragic shooting was an act of terror and hate. But why didn’t he say it was an act of radical Islamic terrorism? Mr. President, with all due respect, don’t forget Fort Hood; don’t forget the Boston Marathon; don’t forget San Bernardino; and don’t forget 9/11. What do they all have in common? They were all Islamic terrorists carrying out their treachery in the name of their religion. Mr. President, your administration has cut our military to the bone and some experts say we’re the weakest we have been in modern times. It’s time we were rebuilding our military force worldwide to take on this enemy. It’s time we tighten America’s borders until we can clearly vet those we’re letting into the country. Mr. President, how many more American lives have to be lost before you understand the threat radical Islam is to every freedom-loving person?


for a vastly different response to the Florida shooting see: