Once upon a time, a story like this would be dystopian fiction. In fact, it’s so graphic, that a science fiction story with this content probably wouldn’t be published until the 1970s or later. Once upon a time, this story would have seemed so unreal.
I’m talking about the Orlando Gay Nightclub Shootings where, according to the CNN report, 49 people were killed and 53 were wounded, all by one man, 29-year-old Omar Mateen. Although mainstream news media has been downplaying the suggestion that Mateen’s being a Muslim might have had something to do with his choice of victims, he telephoned 911 from the scene of the shootings to claim allegiance to ISIS.
What’s more, ISIS claims the nightclub massacre as well, although it’s pretty unlikely that Mateen was directly associated with the terrorist group.
On top of all that, the restaurant chain Chick-Fil-A, which has been criticized in the past because its owners are fundamentalist Christians and oppose same-sex marriage on theological grounds, opened their Orlando location on Sunday (which they never do because of their belief that Sunday is the “sabbath”) and donated free food and drinks to the One Blood donation center to everyone donating blood for the Orlando nightclub victims.
Now obviously, none of this really qualifies as science fiction. No robots, spaceships, or aliens involved at all. However, if these facts were woven into a “fiction” story and published fifty years ago, who’d have believed it could possibly be real. It’s more like some horrible dystopian future we all pray will never actually happen.
Perspective. Fifty years ago puts us in 1966. I was twelve years old. My parents would never have allowed me to read a fiction story that depicted a club full of celebrating homosexuals (not sure back then if the word “gay” was used the same way we employ it today), graphic shootouts, hostage taking, not to mention a gay self-defense group, and a Christian-aligned fast food restaurant supporting the victims. Who’d have thought that the motivation for such a horrible act was at least tangentially associated with an Islamic terrorist group that we, the United States of America, seem powerless to stop.
Is this feeling more “fictional” yet?
With our perspective in the second decade of the 21st century, we often look at our accomplishments, people having walked on the moon, a long-term space station in Earth orbit, robot probes in circling multiple planets in our solar system, and landers and rovers on the surface of Mars, as what would once have been science fiction but are now facts. Heck, one of our probes, Voyager 2 has even been confirmed to have left our solar system entirely. Humanity’s first interstellar explorer.
Once, all science fiction. Now, practically day-to-day routine.
Unfortunately, the same can be said about terrorism, both in the U.S. and abroad. I’m not going to list the plethora of recent Islamic terrorist acts, nor mention the various riots and other commissions of crowd violence we’ve seen in the news lately.
Sure, we had riots in the 1960s related to the civil rights movement and protests against the Vietnam war, but I was a child, and didn’t pay a lot of attention to that. Still, I have to believe that something has happened to the world in the past fifty years, and it’s not good.
I now live in the future I only dreamed of when I was twelve-years-old, and now that I’m here, I see it ain’t pretty. I don’t know what social and political progressives are so excited about.
In the end, it’s not what has changed that should either give us hope or drag us down into despair, it’s what stays the same.
The Torah compels us to be responsible for the world and for one another. It teaches us that all people are created in the image of God, that each and every person is infinitely valuable and unique. It demands that we never stand idly by while our fellows are in danger. We must work to pierce our bubble of self-absorption and care, to reach out to others and feel their pain.
-Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
“The Orlando Terror Attack”
I’m not Jewish, but perhaps it is this sentiment that drove the Christian-affiliated Chick-Fil-A to behave toward the nightclub shooting victims in the best tradition of the “Good Samaritan”. That principle has existed for thousands of years, kept alive by the faith and acts of Jews and Christians around the world.
This isn’t to say that religious people haven’t been guilty of some terrible crimes, at least historically, but I’m talking about people who are acting according to the highest ideals of their faith.
But technically, so are the Muslims (at least the more radicalized ones) whose faith tells them that the LGBTQ community is their enemy and that they are justified in murder.
You shall know those who truly love God by how they treat other people, especially the people who are not like them, including people who may even disdain them. Many gay people and their allies have protested Chick-Fil-A because of what the franchise owners believe, and yet those same owners have opened their hand to the gay community and support the victims.
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”
–Matthew 5:44 (NASB)
What once would have been considered fiction is now ugly reality. What was once unthinkable is now the daily news. The world around us changes, and in many cases, not for the better.
But unchanging, immutable faith in the author of lessons of kindness and love, even love for our enemies, is ours for the taking. No matter what the world serves up, we can always fight back, not with handguns and assault rifles, but with charity and compassion. We were all created in the image of God. For some, that seems as fictional as stories about intelligent robots. For others, it’s the indispensable reality of our existence.
How else can we find hope while living in the dystopia?