The tragic events in Orlando and its unfolding aftermath of the past couple of days have opened up a new window into the dysfunctionality of our present cultural moment. There are a variety of disturbing things about all of this that require calm and prayerful reflection if we are to learn anything of value in order to advance as people and as a nation.
Before dwelling on the disturbing it is important to point out what is uplifting and hopeful. The fact that there has been such a widespread outpouring of shock, pain, and sympathy in response to the attack on human life demonstrates that our culture has not become totally desensitized to sin and evil.
Bishop Noonan of Orlando said it well: the heart of the city has been pierced, like Our Lady’s heart is pierced, and like Jesus’ heart is pierced. Indeed, they weep now for their children.
The grieving that comes with a tragedy such as this, as well as the tug at our hearts in solidarity with survivors and the wounded, is a concrete expression of the common brotherhood of humanity, and it has the capacity to open us to God’s grace and to the solidarity He desires for us all. Our legitimate response of mourning or sorrow in the face of evil is always a sign of hope and of friendship with the Lord.
Attacks On the Non-violent Are Never Justified
Indeed, there are a variety of things in this scene that should make us, together with God, weep.
The most obvious one is that human life has been attacked. What Omar Mateen did is an abomination to God, and it is an offense against reason and virtue. Making it even worse is the fact that it was carried out, from first reports, in the name of religion.
Sadly enough it does prove that religion that is not properly grounded in reason, natural law, or the truth of the human person can be deadly. It is not true religion at all because it does not authentically lead to communion with God.
ISIS, as it professes itself and as an expression of militant and violent Islam, is also an abomination to God. Right reason allows us to say this calmly and clearly to the entire Islamic world that is listening.
As such, it needs to be countered with any means necessary, and in accord with reason, to protect the innocent. This is a long-standing principle of Catholic Just War thinking.
But, if we are to be consistent about our analysis of the current events, other lamentable and disturbing components of the Orlando scene need to be pointed out.
The Correct Response to the Gay Culture
The very existence of a gay nightclub is lamentable. We should not be lulled into thinking that everything going on inside of that building was a normal, fine, and acceptable scene from quintessential Americana that was suddenly shattered.
The news coverage around all of this has totally stepped over the abnormality of the locality because that is the cultural moment we are living through. In fact, the coverage has sought to normalize the entire scene: “it was a fun evening of cross dressing, drag shows, and drinking,” read the major news articles. We ought to recoil at the incongruity inherent in that ostensibly innocent description.
Worse is the rapidly reached conclusion, trumpeted in the headlines, that this heinous act is a summons to greater protection and tolerance for the members of the gay community against any sort of denunciation.
That conclusion, while well-meaning at best, is too imprecise. True, there must never be physical violence carried out against anyone, gays included, who are behaving in an otherwise non-violent manner. That is what reason requires.
However, in no way can this event cause our culture to shrink from our obligation to lovingly and patiently point out that an openly gay lifestyle is also contrary to reason and human dignity, and that any attempt to normalize it is deceitful and an injustice to our brothers and sisters who experience same sex attraction and are owed the truth.
It is tragic that the gay community has to live in fear of violence. An ordered society must recognize this fact. At the same time, an ordered society, consistent with right reason and natural law, can never legally enshrine or socially protect acts of sodomy.
The fact that we have lost our sense of normalcy on this entire question is demonstrated less by the violent and abominable acts of an isolated terrorist, but more so by the airbrushing of the abnormalities in the gay community by vast sectors of the secular population and the ruling elites.
Combating Evil in All Its Forms
But, consistency is a tough mistress, to be sure. Because an ordered society that seeks to protect human dignity and is governed by right reason would also be disturbed not only by the presence of gay night clubs, but also of strip joints, prostitution, abortion clinics, the pornography industry, and any enterprise that undermines healthy marriages and family life. As we all know, the existence of all of these things is legion. The proper name for it is “evil.”
The Vacuous Political Response
Which brings us to another disturbing facet of this entire, sad, scene: the political reaction. In the absence of a legislative or judicial system that is grounded in natural or divine law, and whose momentary emotive foundations are so flimsy, the only reactions we are left with are arbitrary and political.
The Obama Administration, Hilary Clinton, Donald Trump, and most of the reigning political apparatus have jettisoned, a long time ago, any viable means of effectively dealing with problems of this sort. Mere mortals cannot combat evil of this type without reckoning with the hard realities of sin, grace, and the Commandments and natural law.
Contrary to popular discourse at the moment, it is the West’s embrace of secular thinking that creates a fertile ground for these types of horrendous events, and not the reverse.
As far as ISIS is concerned, abomination that it happens to be, it is correct to point out that as long as the large scale cultural decay that we are legally enshrining in our part of the world is allowed to continue unchecked in favor of contrived notions of secular neutrality, then we are in little position to claim the moral high ground in this war.
In short, there is plenty of abomination to go around these days.
Beyond Merely Sending Our Prayers
Is this a wake up call? Of course. But to what exactly? Who is asleep and who is doing the waking?
God does not send things like this to punish certain groups (the gays, for example), but He does permit evil to occur so that we can come to our senses and turn away from it. He offers mercy, and he dispenses justice. He gives right reason, the Scriptures, and the teachings of the Church. He sent his Son who continues to live and reign in our fallen, though grace-filled world.
Yet it seems that when these tragedies happen, apart from some public language about calls for prayers, which is a good start, that is as far as anyone is willing to go to acknowledge the indispensable presence of the Divine.
If we are going to be converted to living as God desires us to, then that is a package deal. ISIS has to go. And so do the gay nightclubs, to put it plainly, and a whole bunch of other culturally lamentable realities.
God does weep. He weeps over the whole confused scene of humanity that is vigorously striving to walk a pathway apart from His Son. Confusion reigns. And confusion is an abomination.
Still, there is hope. Prayers that are offered to God for the victims, their families, and for our nation are no doubt heard. God is not distant from all of this mess; He is continually at work in it, trying to call us all back to Himself, trying to bring an end to all the confusion.
That is why He is the way, the truth, and the life. To the extent that we acknowledge Him as such, we will be saved, personally and culturally. If we do not, we will perish. That is not so much divine punishment as it is the mechanics of reason and reality.
It would be most helpful right now if we all, from the top down, returned to those topics without deviating: reason, and reality. In that way we will all be led back to God and to the fullness of life that He desires for each and everyone of us.