In thinking about the Orlando killings, John Donne's famous poem “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is pertinent: Every human death “diminisheth me”.
We may be, we generally are, blind to this insight. Our feelings for others, like the light from a candle do diminish rapidly with distance. The death of one close to us can be a grief to heavy to bear: Whilst news of the deaths of a million foreigners in a distant land barely makes an impact.
That “just is”. We probably could not function if it were otherwise. So am I being unfair to Donne if I suggest that his vision was more of a God's eye view of the world? Certainly he was, at this stage of his life a passionate Christian. I see this as a poem by a man who has glimpsed the heart of God. I don't think I am stretching things to say that he is depicting the feelings, not the human-of-this-world, but of the person who is coming to understand how God feels about things.
That is perhaps a long-winded way of stating my belief that a godly person would view the deaths of the victims in Orlando as an “every manne's death diminisheth me” moment. Having said that, I think what further reaction people displayed may be indicative. About the same time as this shooting, 19 young Yazidi women in Iraq were burned to death in cages for refusing to have sex with ISIS fighters. Clearly a martyrdom for their religious and moral beliefs.
In Woodend where I live both Mosul and Orlando are “over there” although of course culturally we identify closely with the U.S.A. However the news coverage of the fate of the Yzidi women was brief, whilst the coverage, not of the Islamic terrorist angle but the “gay” angle of the other was over the top. Indeed the local Anglican church here (no, I do not attend it!) flew the gay rainbow flag at half mast!
Perhaps I understate our news media's ethnocentricity. The Paris massacre, again by Islamic terrorists did receive huge coverage, and people holding vigils and lighting candles. But that is where it stopped. With Orlando there has been the unique addition of “gay rights”.
I think this says two things about Western social mores.
1. Homosexual culture, once taboo, has gone straight through being permissible to being a sacred cow.
2. It is on the way to becoming a shibboleth to trap and persecute Christians.
The word “shibboleth” may have gone out of currency. It came from one of the Old Testament wars. Soldiers of the defeated side fleeing the wrath of the victors had to cross the Jordan river. The victors held the fords. Both groups had slightly different accents. So the victorious soldiers demanded of any men trying to cross the fords that they say “Shibboleth”. The losers could not pronounce it properly, and were promptly killed.
In old Japan, villagers were routinely made to stamp on a crucifix. Christians would not do so and so were revealed – and killed.
We seem to be moving to a position where Christians will be identified and targeted (we are more civilised now than olden times aren’t we so they won't be killed) by being pushed to say that homosexual practices are not just an acceptable but a superior model of Christian behaviour.
Christians should be free to believe and to say that XYZ behaviours are sins according to the Bible even if they are socially acceptable.
Come to think of it the Bible calls “sins” a very great number of things that are positively endorsed by our society! Think about: drunkenness, indigence, gossip, greed, gluttony, envy, factional intrigues, abuse of power of market position, fornication, adultery, pornography (Jesus slammed even “looking at a woman lustfully”). As well as ones that are illegal such as: political corruption, false weights and measures, dishonest trading, stealing, murder, assault, slander, domestic abuse. And these are only the ones that come to mind as I sit here!
We are all sinners in need of a Saviour. We all have sins that recur like bouts of malaria to plague us. We have all made ungodly choices in the past that have left us scarred and left us in life situations that were not God's plan for us. Recognising things as “sins” is the essential starting point!
BUT and here is the big, big “but”: Fixing our messed up lives takes the wisdom and power of God as well as our commitment and … a very long time! What God chooses to fix first is his call! So for us “judge not lest ye be judged” is good advice.
SO : for Christians, naming any of this multitude of behaviours as “sins” is in no way derogatory of the person: it is more like welcoming them to Narcotics Anonymous …. “we are all substance abusers here, regardless of your drug of choice (“besetting sin” for us).
The Bible labels so many things as “sins” which our society accepts, that the presence of sexual intercourse between persons of the same gender in the list should be unremarkable!
Yet to say that is now to be branded “homophobe” and pilloried. Worse may be around the corner. I think this is developing into a convenient shibboleth to identify genuine Christians and eradicate them.