The deaths in the Orlando nightclub are a tragedy. As with every human act, the killer’s motivations are a tangled mess that includes, among other things, radicalization of his Muslim faith and animus toward gay and lesbian individuals.
Instead of using this moment to reasonably discuss how such acts could be prevented, many have capitalized on the killings to further emotionalize the discussion concerning LGBT rights and religious freedom.
In doing so, they are creating the very environment they say they condemn. They have simply changed the victim and extended bigotry’s influence in our society.
When I previously wrote that Christians should offer our grief and silence (instead of arguing and blame assigning), my concern was that mourning take place and healing begin. But those things will be hindered as same-sex marriage opponents are treated as if we pulled the trigger by many—including (and especially) the New York Times.
Their editorial immediately following the shooting laid blame at the feet of Republican politicians.
While the precise motivation for the rampage remains unclear, it is evident that Mr. Mateen was driven by hatred toward gays and lesbians. Hate crimes don’t happen in a vacuum. They occur where bigotry is allowed to fester, where minorities are vilified and where people are scapegoated for political gain. Tragically, this is the state of American politics, driven too often by Republican politicians who see prejudice as something to exploit, not extinguish. …
As the funerals are held for those who perished on Sunday, lawmakers who have actively championed discriminatory laws and policies, and those who have quietly enabled them with votes, should force themselves to read the obituaries and look at the photos. The 49 people killed in Orlando were victims of a terrorist attack. But they also need to be remembered as casualties of a society where hate has deep roots.
They acknowledge the shooter’s motivation “remains unclear,” yet the NYT sees no issue with immediately blaming it on homophobia (despite reports that the killer had repeatedly been to the club and sought same-sex hookups through an app) and assigning responsibility to those who oppose same-sex marriage.
In addition, a Times news article asserts that a “Republican congressman read his colleagues a Bible verse from Romans that calls for the execution of gays.” Only that verse doesn’t exist in Romans and it takes a concerted effort (i.e. twisting it beyond recognition) to make it say that. There has been no correction as of yet.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Times‘ Room for Debate features the headline “Have Christians Created a Harmful Atmosphere for Gays?”
The national discussion The New York Times believes we should have after a Muslim man pledges allegiance to ISIS and murders almost 50 people at a nightclub is about the potentially harmful environment Christians have created for gay individuals.
Granted, the section includes two pieces from each perspective. But could you imagine them even asking the question about Muslims or reversing it and pondering: “Have Gay Rights Created a Harmful Atmosphere for Religious Liberty?”
None of those questions matter for the New York Times and others, however, because political movement on LGBT issues is worth the personal assault on those who believe differently. This shows how far we have gone as a society.
Previously, we could have civil discussions about our differing views. More recently, however, disagreement was equated with hate. If you held to a different belief about marriage and sexuality, you must “hate” gay and lesbian individuals.
It did not matter that such an argument was irrational. (There are clearly individuals who demonstrate love for someone while disagreeing with them.) But the lack of rationality was the point in many ways.
The appeal was intentionally subrational, designed to exploit emotions and shut down discussion. You may have a reasoned stance opposing same-sex marriage, but that automatically made you hate-filled. Because of your hate, your opinion is dangerous and should not even be heard, much less considered.
Unfortunately for many same-sex marriage supporters, characterizing the position of others as “hate” has not ended the debate. In many ways, it has further entrenched opponents. That means they have to go further in their rhetoric.
In the middle of the Chick-fil-A controversy four years, I wrote about the step after accusations of hate.
When we use hate to mean disagreement, eventually hate will cease to generate the needed emotion because it will have become watered down. Hate will have lost the power it once had because it was used so casually.
A new word will be found and used. The new word will be stronger and more emotional. This is where language becomes dangerous.
We will cycle through words more quickly and continue to move on to harsher words. Hate has become the gateway drug leading to an endless addiction to demonizing the ideological opponent. One day, if not corrected, we will reach the end of this tunnel.
Hate will cease being a trojan horse. It will be the reality. Sides will become enemies and because the language has become so emotionally soaked and so driven by those emotions, ideological enemies will become moral enemies.
When you and I view each other as moral enemies, it is no longer simply acceptable for you to oppose me. It is now your moral obligation to oppose me, and to do so by any means necessary.
It seems the new word is “murderer.”
The reasoning of the New York Times is that my disagreement with them over the issue of marriage is essentially equal to murdering 50 people. They said the dead in Orlando were “victims of a terrorist attack,” but also casualties of a hateful society created by those who hold to a different concept of marriage.
In the eyes of the New York Times editors, I am the equivalent of the murderous terrorist because I see marriage as solely being between one man and one woman for life. If that is the case, then is it not their moral duty to stop me and anyone who believes as I do?
And therein lies the problem for the Times. They are creating the very environment, they claim to be condemning. If disagreement equals hate and hate equals murder, what does that say about their view toward those who believe differently?
Note again this section of their editorial:
Hate crimes don’t happen in a vacuum. They occur where bigotry is allowed to fester, where minorities are vilified and where people are scapegoated for political gain. Tragically, this is the state of American politics, driven too often by Republican politicians who see prejudice as something to exploit, not extinguish.
From their own definitions, how is this not a form of bigotry against conservatives? How are they not scapegoating Christians for political gain? Why would this not be considered exploiting liberal prejudices instead of attempting to extinguish them?
If this weekend, someone went into a well-known conservative church and murdered dozens of people, would the New York Times bear partial responsibility? Should they debate the question: Has the media created a hateful environment for Christians?
Those at the Times would probably consider such questions out of bounds and distractions from the actual murderer and their motives. I would agree, but I wish they would extend the same courtesy.
Just as we should be able to draw a distinction between an Islamic extremist and a peaceful Muslim neighbor, the differences should also be obvious between the terrorists who murdered 49 people and the Chick-fil-A employees who came to work on Sunday to hand out free food to law enforcement officials and those waiting in line to donate blood.
While the shooter and those fast food employees may both disagree with our societal embrace of gay marriage, their responses to that reality are drastically different. To flatten those distinctions and equate the two is—to borrow from the New York Times—bigotry, scapegoating, and the exploitation of prejudices.
Our nation should discuss the way we treat gay and lesbian individuals, along with other groups who have historically been mistreated and misrepresented. (As a Christian, I am guided by the conviction that everyone has inherent worth because they are created in the image of God.) But that discussion should not consist of merely replacing one frequently maligned group with a new one.
Unfortunately, the New York Times and many others seem determined not to end all forms of bigotry, but to simply change the target.