The Orlando Nightclub Shooting, with 49 dead and 53 wounded, is the largest mass shooting in American History. I went to church on Sunday when the suspected death toll was 20. I came home to find it at 50. No matter the final number, the amount of hatred and bloodshed from this potential terrorist event is hard for me to process emotionally.
I live in two worlds. I'm a Catholic in a 15 year traditional marriage with lots of children and I believe firmly that discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people is morally wrong.
It's embarrassing to say that, while my two thoughts are spelled out clearly in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and I believe they both find a home in my spiritual father Pope Francis, I often feel uncomfortably alone among my Catholic Friends on Facebook.
To be clear and charitible, NO ONE I know on Facebook would ever advocate violence against gay Americans. However, there is this rhetoric that shows up on my daily Facebook feed that isn't so awesome. The issue of Transgendered Rights in North Carolina bathrooms has sparked some strongly worded posts. It felt uncomfortable to read them at first. Now, the memory of more than a dozen Facebook posts I read in the past month make me feel scared and upset at the same time.
The rhetoric of intolerance towards gay Americans isn't soley limited to extremist Muslims. There are a lot of ordinary, church going Americans who post strongly worded essays about gay sexuality on Facebook with surprisingly little insight and compassion.
After Orlando, I made a new promise to myself. There should be a more clear line on social media between those who believe in the gifts of traditional marriage, and those hate gays Americans enough to kill them in night clubs. The line of Catholic rhetoric and ISIS supporters should never be blurry. If one of my beloved friends start to go off on "Those Transgendered folks are talking over our bathrooms and hurting our women and children," I'm going to speak up. I don't even know what I'm going to say outloud yet. I only know the time for my silence has past.
As Americans, we have got to find a way to talk about hard issues without screaming at each other. Democracy depends upon dialogue.
The best way I know to increase dialogue, is to go to the movies. This idea seems simple. Yet one of the greatest movies I saw this week was "The Imitation Game" staring Benedict Cumberbatch. This movie about a gay hero who ended WWII early, saving an estimated 14 million lives, by using his mathmatical skills to break the German code machine called "enigma." This movie is a beautiful true story about beating impossible odds. As a historical movie, it also shows the discrimination that homosexual men faced in Britian in the early 20th century. "The Imitation Game" is gorgeous filmmaking with a deep message of hope. As a teacher, I loved how it placed academic skills on par with the bravery of RAF fighters during the London bombing raids. Watch this movie with friends and family. Give yourself lots of time to talk about it afterwards together.
I think it is good for Catholics to watch movies about real life gay heroes. We need to grapple with the innate dignity of human life. We need to move the cultural war into a place of better cooperation, greater moral theology, and deeper philosophy. Our disagreements with the larger American culture might sometimes be strong, but yet our Facebook posts don't have to ever have to be unkind.
St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us. Make us instruments of your peace.
Note: The Imitiation Game (2014) is currently free on Amazon Prime.