Compassion-Challenged Christian Right’s Reaction to Orlando Murders

Human Rights

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell took to Pat Robertson’s airwaves and blamed gays, pro-choice activists, and liberals in general, for the terrorist attacks. Over the years, Christian right leaders have blamed gays and lesbians for not only destroying the traditional family, but for hurricanes, tornadoes, fires and pestilence. Now, in the days following the early Sunday morning terrorist attack on the Orlando gay nightclub, there hasn’t been that kind of knee-jerk bombast from major Christian Right organizations or leaders. Instead, benign neglect seems to be their settled-on modus operandi; express condolences and move on as quickly as possible. Despite this approach, some fringe Christian anti-gay pastors haven’t gotten the memo, as they continue to spew incredibly hateful comments. 

People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch reported that the “virulently anti-LGBT pastor Steven Anderson reacted to the terrorist attack … by happily announcing that ‘there’s 50 less pedophiles in this world’”:

“These homosexuals are a bunch of perverts and pedophiles, that’s who was a victim here, a bunch of disgusting homosexuals at a gay bar. The good news is that at least 50 of these pedophiles are not going to be harming children anymore. The bad news is that a lot of the homos in the bar are still alive, so they’re going to continue to molest children and recruit people into their filthy homosexual lifestyle.” 

Anderson added: “These people all should have been killed anyway, but they should have been killed through the proper channels, as in, they should’ve been executed by a righteous government.”

Box Turtle Bulletin (BTB) noted that Sacramento’s CBS affiliate discovered a YouTube video posted by Pastor Roger Jimenez of Verity Baptist Church. In the video, which has since been taken down by YouTube, Pastor Jimenez stated: “Are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today? Um no, I think that’s great! I think that helps society. I think Orlando, Florida is a little safer tonight.” Jimenez added: “If we lived in a righteous government, they should round them all up and put them up against a firing wall, and blow their brains out.”

Meanwhile, mainstream Christian right organizations have responded to the Orlando murders more cautiously, as exemplified by a statement issued by the American Family Association (AFA): 

“This is a time when a nation must come together, reminding that God loves all people, and all are His creation, made in His own image. All lives are precious, and because the American Family Association is known for its commitment to family values, we deeply mourn when lives are lost due to senseless violence. We know there are millions praying for the families and friends of the victims, and we ask all to join together with them and for those who are wounded, that a healing of both the body and the community will be reality.”

A day later, the AFA went back to business as usual, which for the AFA means ratcheting up its current campaign; the boycott of Target stores over the company’s gender-inclusive bathroom/dressing room policy. 

Sam Rohrer, president of the American Pastors Network (APN), made sure that his statement would not be interpreted as being supportive of the gay community or gay rights:

“While Christianity does not condone homosexuality, the faithful should — and do — love all of their neighbors as themselves, especially as they are made in the image of God. Violence is never an acceptable response to any situation, and APN representatives are praying for the families of those who were killed and injured.”

Rohrer went on to point out that “This part of Orlando was a gun-free zone and if a citizen could have carried a gun, perhaps a number of deaths could have been prevented.”

A day later, Rohrer also went back to attacking transgender Americans.

“When a man or woman tries to change the creature born with a male or female marker on every chromosome, that person is still not able to usurp God’s authority]. Our Western culture has created the science that may make someone look different on the outside — but the transgender ideology is grounded in the idea that the body isn’t an essential part of our being. Gender identity is fluid, and a social construct. A person may identify as a man trapped in a woman’s body, or vice versa. However, the roles assigned to men and women do not change over time in God’s eyes.”

Also on Tuesday, June 14, Tony Perkins, head of the powerful Family Research Council, issued a statement/fundraising pitch casting North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory as a hero in the fight against transgender rights. 

Interestingly enough, as Jonathan Zimmerman, a New York University teacher wrote in an op-ed piece for the San Francisco Chronicle, “According to a 2015 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, 42 percent of American Muslims favor same-sex marriage,” which is “more than white evangelical Protestants” which come in at 28 percent.

The LGBTQ community has been targets of the Christian Right for decades. The massacre in Orlando will not change that.

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