Horror in Orlando: Let the Scapegoating Begin

“Opportunistic” means “exploiting chances offered by immediate circumstances without reference to a general plan or moral principle.”Horror in Orlando

“Scapegoating” means “the practice of singling out any party for unmerited negative treatment or blame.”

Whether shaken or stirred together, the two make one heck of a cocktail.

Back in 1998, I took my first sip of it. Several of my close friends had just participated in a national campaign to publicize their testimonies of turning away from homosexual behavior. Major newspapers around the country carried their stories, creating a national conversation, and controversy, over the idea of people “going straight.”

Shortly afterwards, the brutal murder of Matthew Shepherd made headlines. Shepherd’s killers met the young gay man at a Wyoming bar, robbed and beat him, then lashed him to a fence during the chill winter night to freeze to death.

The assailants weren’t professing Christians, hadn’t just been to church, and most likely never even heard of the testimonials from my friends. But that didn’t stop the Today Show’s host Katie Couric from suggesting to the governor of Wyoming, on national television, that these Christian ads somehow incited Shepherd’s murderers into this heinous crime.

Couric’s insinuation left me shocked and appalled, which amuses me today as I ask that naïve guy from 1998, “Well, dear boy, what world did you think you were living in?” Scapegoating for political or social gain is, after all, hardly a new practice.

But lest anyone get holier-than-thou about this, let’s admit that Sunday morning’s tragedy in Orlando has already been co-opted by leadership on the Left and the Right, as political activists have exploited it to promote or denounce gun control, immigration policies, Trump, Clinton, or Obama.

What strikes me in particular is the exploitation of these murders for the sake of accusing, then silencing, the Biblical position on human sexuality, an exploitation which is becoming as predictable as it is unjust.

Since the Shepherd killing we’ve seen it year after year, usually with the same playbook: something horrendous happens to a homosexual, and the talking heads initiate a perverse game of Clue. (“I’ve got it! Colonel Mustard didn’t do it in the Parlor with a Candlestick. It was the Christian who did it with a Bible in
the Church.”)

 “It Seems We’ve Stood and Talked like This Before…”

That’s why this week I’m inclined to say, as Ronald Reagan famously quipped, “There you go again.”

Taking full advantage of our national heartache, a growing number of voices are also calling for national intolerance. The Huffington Post this week drew a line in the sand by declaring that tolerance isn’t enough, and that if you’re one of those citizens who objects to transgenders using the bathroom of their choice or who is repulsed by the thought of gay sex, you are contributing to the violence displayed last Sunday. Salon magazine went one better, declaring
what enlightened people want today:

“We strive for an end to all religions teaching that homosexuality is a sin… Only then will people be free to live their lives without fear of bigotry based violence.”

I see. If you believe the male-female union is God’s intention and anything falling short of it is a sin, then because of you, people aren’t yet free to live without fear. At least they’re being honest in admitting what they really want, though if you ask anyone in this line of work, we’ll tell you we saw it coming decades ago.

The Church: “Innocent” or just “Not Guilty?”

Yet as we defend the truth, let’s not get too defensive about ourselves. Just because we’re not guilty of hate, and by and large, we’re certainly not, we’re not entirely innocent, either. Indifference or contempt may not be hatred, but they’re wrong. So to whatever extent we may be guilty of these sins, let’s be willing to admit it and, more importantly, do something about it.

My admission, then, is that we while haven’t hated homosexuals, we could have handled this issue much better.

Until the 1970’s the church didn’t say much about the subject, yet in fairness, who did? It was rarely mentioned in polite conversation. But as the gay rights movement brought it more to the forefront, when it was brought up from the pulpit, too often it was denounced with a contempt you didn’t hear applied to other sexual sins.

Adultery and fornication were referred to as sins of course, but the homosexual seemed to warrant special treatment. He wasn’t just a sinner like all others, but a threat as well, an aberration, another species. When he got AIDS it was God’s judgment. If he taught school, it was so he could molest students. It he looked at you, he was lusting.

And if he repented and came to church, he’d often find something less than a prodigal’s welcome.

I remember when my close friend who’d turned from homosexual behavior decades earlier was denied a teaching position in a Christian school solely because this sin was part of his past.

Around that same time, a worship leader at a church I consulted with had also repented years earlier and already established himself as a gifted, sincere minister of music. But the church was torn apart over the prospect of hiring a former homosexual, no matter how long ago he’d repented, nor how good a name he’d made for himself since then.

And more than one pastor has told me, over these past thirty years of my own work, “Well, I praise God for your testimony, but I’d be awfully uncomfortable having anyone on my staff who’d ever committed that sin.”

Additionally,  the lack of ministries you’ll find today offering help to repentant homosexuals, compared to the number of ministries you’ll find helping people who’ve turned from porn, chemical dependency, alcoholism, smoking, or overeating, speaks for itself.

Unquestionably, many churches, pastors, and believers have shown nothing but love and respect to homosexual people, and cannot be indicted for any of this. Likewise, churches that have remained steadfast Biblically have also become more welcoming of people who’ve turned from homosexuality and are seeking to live a disciple’s life. Grace and truth are, praise God, evident in plenty of our congregations. But the right position marred by the wrong attitude is still there, sometimes glaringly.

Look no further than two current examples of what not to say if you’re a pastor and, indeed, what kind of attitude not to have. One fellow from Phoenix
and another from Sacramento sinned publicly and stupidly, vomiting nonsense on their congregations by telling them it was a good thing the “pedophiles” in Orlando were killed, and that we’re all better off for it.

(The sin of their words was bad enough. Would to God they hadn’t compounded it with the sin of doing so on videotape. One pastor like that does more to discredit Christians than a thousand gay activists ever could.)

So no, we’re not guilty of damaging people by believing, then promoting, God-given standards. But yes, we could have been better stewards of truth and, in some cases, we still have plenty of room to grow.

As we do, in contrast to false shepherds who rejoice in the Orlando slaughter, and false advocates who accuse the Church of hate because we refuse to cave to modern revisions of truth, let’s cling to some key points from the Word:

1. God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. (Ezekiel 18:23)
2. God sent His son to save, not to condemn. (John 3:17)
3. God wills all to be saved. (I Timothy 2:4)
4. God wills all who are saved to walk in truth. (III John 1:4)
5. God wills us, who have His nature and carry Christ’s name, to walk as He walked when He was among us. (I John 2:6)

This is Christianity 101, basic to the faith, and more relevant than ever.


Tom | Jun 15, 2016

Good points. Ran in to a lady, who had invited parents to church , they had not gone in a long time. They had been prayed for I'm sure also. They finally came! But, the pastor preached that good Christians should not be around or friendly to homosexuals. Well, they left, and have not returned to any church. This is a travesty! Your article brings the proper position, loud and clear. God help us to reflect the truth..with grace.

Jerry Armelli | Jun 16, 2016

"...more relevant than ever." Yes, Joe. Thank you for this wonderful blog. It's rich in truth and love.

I am trying to discern the real story through the media. What I gather is that the 'shooter' sole motivation for these murders was his allegiance to Isis - He was getting back at America for bombing his 'home land.' Those were his words in his several calls to 911 during his shooting rampage. He never said he was doing the shootings because he hated gays, blacks, males, females, Christians ... . He killed any American in that bar, black, white, gay, straight, whomever!

One of the shooting victims that survived, an African American female reported that the shooter said out loud in the restroom during a break in his shooting that he had nothing against the people there and that he was just getting back at America for bombing his home land.

The shooter socialized with gay-identified people for years!

If he had done this shooting in a heterosexual-identified bar that he frequented, would anyone have said he hated heterosexual people? Maybe he was gay-identified and hated heterosexual people? What would have been said by the gay-identified community and media?


I believe that certain circles within the gay-identified community and the media have hijacked this shooting for their own political and social propaganda. The issues behind the shootings in not hatred of gays.

Joe, do what you think is good and right with my comments. Edit or delete if you'd like.


Julie Beam | Jun 17, 2016

Joe, again thank you for this. You made some very valid points. The church canot hold the past against someone when God doesn't even do that. Do they think they are wiser and more just then our Father who has forgiven us our sins when we repent and He even forgets them?

I am sickened to hear what these pastors said after the shooting. :( They do terrible damage to the body of Christ. Homosexuals are not pedophiles. Sad they don't even know the difference...espesically when speaking public like this.

You are right the church does need to do more for sure.

I do wish the gay community would realize it's not just Christians that believe this lifestyle is a sin, but every major religion in the world does. Plus many who have no religious beliefs at all, also don't accept it, struggle with it and many of those are extremely hateful about it.

Besides us being blamed in part for his attack on them they seem to have forgotten extremist Mulisms also hate Christians too. They seem to think if us Christians loved and accepted them as they are, it would change how an extremist Muslim would view them. That just makes no sense at all.

I have also seen America's violent history blamed for this attack...why can't we just blame the one who actu ally murdered all those people? Instead of everything else under the sun..

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