We've not shown any interest in learning from tragedies

Once again we have suffered a national tragedy that is as foolish as it is horrendous. Compounding the heartbreak is the fact that it may have been as preventable as it was predictable. There's a lot that could be learned from Orlando, however, we've shown we're not interested in learning from these tragedies, though they are an embarrassment to any people who claim to be free. We seem happily determined to do nothing. Every time we wake up to this news, again, instead of reaching out to one another, reaching across the aisle, committing to take a chance, bend to compromise - do something for the sake of our children - instead, we just retrench even deeper into our positions of arrogance. Blame has become preferable to action. Everyone's favorite subject is guns. As if our weapons of mass destruction don't have enough power, and we're not obsessed enough with them, we just keep blessing them with headlines and filibusters. Inanimate guns are not the problem. We ought to have the common sense to say this. Too many people with too many guns is the problem. We ought to have the wisdom to say that. That deadly obsession, for the Left and the Right, is just a convenient cover for the fact that we are either ignorant of the larger problem, or, because we know how difficult it is, we prefer to bury our heads and pretend not to see it. We could take some sensible gun measures, still guaranteeing people's "sacred" 2nd amendment rights, and make a difference. That isn't the answer, but it would save a few children, and our precious guns. But maybe we don't care about a few children. The real problem, of course, is people - and people are even more destructive and more intractable than guns. The tragedy in Orlando ought to be a perfect study for our nation, but we don't have the courage to see it for what it is. We'll just keep arguing about our guns. The problem is that people are social creatures, what we want and need is what we crave as children: a little bit of affirmation, a little bit of independence, a whole lot of love - and you can't have any of this without community. Isolation breeds most of the evils of this world. The LGBTQ community has known far too little of the community all of us deserve. I recently heard a pastor speak of an experience in a meeting in Orlando. After an afternoon of being shunned and shamed by his denomination's deliberations, the barrage of anti-gay rhetoric beating him down, he needed community (a little bit of affirmation, a little bit of independence). He reached out for that security in the only “sanctuary” he could find: a night club called “The Pulse.” I don't commend the night club life, but if the Church isn't going to offer a little bit of affirmation, a little bit of independence, a whole lot of love to the gay members of our congregations and our families, then they will find their “sanctuary” elsewhere. As a pastor I find that substitute sad and disturbing - but it's actually preferable to those who find their “sanctuary” in extremist religion. The radical element in Islam is frightening. My Muslim friends are even more concerned about it than Christians are because it's their own religion that's being hijacked. We're not close to having any answers to this epidemic, because we're not interested in asking the right questions - which are not about Islam, but about why this element of Islam has been radicalized. For that answer we would have to ask a lot of uncomfortable questions: about U.S. involvement in the Middle East and oil and Israel and military intervention just to name a few. Again, it's just easier to find a scapegoat, blame Islam, than it is to ask why a segment of this religion has become so isolated they would express their faith in such twisted, painful ways. No answer will be easy. People are complicated. But if we want to be taken seriously by the world community, and care about the safety of our own communities, we ought to do something about gun violence. And then, we ought to have the conviction and courage to ask some difficult questions. Orlando offers us a place to start. (Russ Dean and his wife Amy Jacks Dean are graduates of Clinton High School and co-pastors of Park Road Baptist in Charlotte. After Furman University and Southern Baptist Seminary Russ earned the doctor of ministry degree from Beeson Divinity School. One son, Jackson, is a PC freshman, the other, Bennett, is a high school junior.)

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