Living in the Dystopia


Chaos at the scene of a mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando early Sunday. (UNIVISION FLORIDA CENTRAL / HAN/EPA)

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.

Added to this, the self-professed gay defense organization Pink Pistols has issued a press release condemning the shooter but not firearms, unlike most progressives.

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?


9 thoughts on “Living in the Dystopia

  1. There were Christian postings online (two that I saw but what they said is nothing new), after the killing in Orlando… that were taken down due to the online site rules against hateful speech. They were involved 1) explanations of regret more people don’t die, 2) explications that there is no reason to be sad because people died at The Pulse or that God does require they die but that it should be by law. [You can be sure these preachers weren’t progressives.] I see you acknowledged religious people have been known to be bad; many Muslims aspire to good.

    On the topic of the word “gay” I noticed the previous weekend (before this last weekend) in coverage of history related to Mohammad Ali, there was a quote where he or a friend used the word to mean the likes of happy. There was no remark about it, so it was apparently still quite accepted to use the word that way (and apparently there was a lack of discomfort with it). I also remember learning the song about chickadees (happy and gay who fly away) in the sixties. In the sixties, too, by the way, we (the U.S.A.) couldn’t find victory in Vietnam either.

    I think we would be better off had President Johnson stuck to his war on poverty instead of sinking a bunch of money and lives and energy into Vietnam. I think we’d be better off, as well, had we tried to improve our own society rather than sinking money and lives and energy into Iraq especially (but really Afghanistan too). Why do leaders keep falling for this kind of behavior? In th a case of the Bush (II) Administration, I have a sense it was to create a diversion of attention from the failure of the intelligence community or the President (or VP).


  2. Another thought. Some people are ideologically in favor of spending on war (or “defense”so called) but against government otherwise. So forget about funding intelligence gathering or government employees. Just forever complain about having to fund government functions at all.


  3. @Marleen: I think you’re right about the use of the word “gay” in the 1960s and earlier.
    I’ve seen a number of commentaries from conservative Pastors including Pat Robertson, who say that the Orlando gay nightclub shootings were a good thing. Fortunately, other Pastors have gone online to refute them. It is said in midrash that when the Israelites had crossed the Reed Sea (often mistranslated as “Red” Sea) and the Egyptians had drowned, that the angels in heaven cheered over those deaths. God rebuked them saying that the Egyptians were His children, too.
    I’m not casting gay people in the role of ancient Egyptians, but this illustrates that God is not anxious for anyone to die, and certainly doesn’t celebrate the death of others, any others. Conservative Christian Pastors who believe God is happy that gay people suffered and died in Orlando are just plain wrong. More’s the pity, because it makes it look as if we all feel the same way these theological edge cases do.


  4. Yes, Robertson is a third one I’ve heard about subsequent to my posting. He can usually be “counted on” to say weird things. He not only spoke hatefully in favor of the deaths, he engaged in slanderous lies or innuendo.

    I think it’s very important, the lesson you shared from midrash about the Reed Sea story. That same teaching (I think not about death of the Egyptians, but I don’t remember where) is more directly shared in the Bible too.


    • Yes, so far three Pastors have gone on record as praising the Orlando shootings. Unfortunately, atheists and liberal Christians are using this as an illustration of how bad all conservative Christians are.


  5. I don’t know; maybe a few or some are. But I guess it’s fair to paint all of THEM with the same brush? Like it’s okay to paint all Muslims with the same brush? There are other pastors who have talked like this for years, btw, but we know this. And a few Republican candidates during the primary season appeared on stage with such a flaked out hater. And not putting a rant on YouTube or the like is not equivalent to not saying the same kind of thing. Maybe noticing these facts puts me (wrongly) in that category of liberals or atheists who generalize.


    • We all tend to generalize (I just did it again). It’s difficult to conceptualize a group that is really made up of a bunch of subgroups, and understand the differences between them.


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