I make notes on a yellow legal pad that I keep at my desk. It may be from a devotion I read that morning, something I heard on the radio, something I saw on TV, or something that happened that day. I have to. Why? Very simply, I forget. As my Sunday School teacher, Alfredo, has said, “A short pencil is better than a long memory.” So a quick note on that legal pad helps remind me. I didn’t realize that short note I wrote on Saturday morning, June 11, would be an ominous forecast of a tragedy that was to come early the next day.
I can’t remember the devotion I read that morning. But afterwards I wrote on that yellow legal pad, “We’ve got to see the big picture – heaven vs. hell, good vs. evil; what’s happening in the world, where things are heading.” Late that night the massacre in Orlando took place. Forty-nine people were murdered in a gay nightclub by a radical Muslim gunman claiming allegiance to ISIS. So what’s happening, and where are we heading? I have a couple of observations, then a look at that big picture.
First, it’s amazing to see, when something like this happens, how everyone tends to run back to their corners, to protect and advance their own personal agendas. You knew what the folks at Fox and other conservative media outlets were going to say. You knew what the people at MSNBC and the more liberal media were going to say. One group says the problem is radical Islamic terrorism. The other group says the problem is guns. With a few exceptions, neither is willing to concede any ground to the other. But in some way, both may be right.
Radical Islamic terrorism is a real threat. Stricter measures may be needed to combat it. But you can’t use measures that will further isolate the Muslim community from the rest of us. On the other hand, the Muslim community and its leaders must recognize that we need and expect their help in dealing with the terrorism that is being generated by those who claim their religion.
On the subject of guns, I don’t see how a person, like the Orlando shooter, who had been on a terrorist watch list, should be able to buy a gun without proper investigation. And I wonder the reason why an average citizen would ever need an assault type rifle that shoots so many rounds at a time. Unless it’s to protect yourself from another person with a similar type weapon.
However, if the nightclub had a few responsible, trained gun owners, carrying their weapons that night at the club, maybe things would had been much different. The world around us has changed. Yes, there are things that a responsible government should do to protect its citizens. But we citizens need to realize that we need to become more responsible ourselves in order to protect ourselves, and those around us.
Now back to that big picture. It seems that everyone wants to know why, and what the motive is for the Orlando mass killings. Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that there is evil in the world. And, without the restraining force of God, who now it seems has become irrelevant to most in America, or perverted, like the god of ISIS, evil has a free reign to advance.
What about the little picture? How do we respond? We demand a responsible government and act as responsible citizens. We also confront evil. How? By doing good. Several Chick-fil-A restaurants in Orlando on Sunday following the attack delivered sandwiches and iced tea to blood drives supporting victims of the gay nightclub terrorist attack. Normally not open on Sunday, and operating according to a strong Christian stance, store employees also delivered food to first responders and others assisting after the massacre. The fact that the shootings took place at a gay nightclub and the majority of those donating blood were also gay didn’t matter. The Chick-fil-A folks were doing good.
Pastor and author Rick Warren probably explained it best when he wrote, “Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means that you must agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”
In the changing world we live in we need to remember that. The massacre in Orlando is a stark reminder that there is evil in this world. It must be confronted. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:21)
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at [email protected]