A rush is on to call Omar Mateen, the “Other.” He must be the antithesis of Americans. He is evil, we are good. He is Muslim, we are saved. He is a foreigner, we belong. He is an external threat to our lifestyle, thus we must make America great again. And yet, when America looks into the mirror, the image most likely to be reflected is that of Omar Mateen. The hatred Mateen manifested is the unchecked hatred that continues to saturate our politics and discourse.
When Baptist ministers, and other extreme Christians or churches, praise Mateen, wishing “the government would round up [all queer folk], put them up against a firing wall, put the firing squad in front of them and blow their brains out,” we are all Omar Mateen.
When we insist on taking Leviticus 20:13 literally, or develop a theology rooted in the hatred of LGBT brothers and sisters, or hatred period, we are all Omar Mateen.
When our hatred for transgender people leads to a record number of documented transgender murders in 2015, and in our apathy we focus instead on which bathroom they can use, we are all Omar Mateen.
When politicians propose banning Muslims, and voters either pledge allegiance to these racist politicians, or rely on their white privilege to remain secure from racist consequences because they don’t plan to vote, we are all Omar Mateen.
When we protect the so-called right to carry militarily designed AR-15s in civilian settings, whose only purpose is to create massive carnage and casualties, we are all Omar Mateen.
When politicians, out of either cowardliness or greediness, refuse to protect the American public from the proliferation of a gun culture, we are all Omar Mateen.
When NRA supporters blame “radical Islam” rather then their complicity for arming lone wolf terrorists, we are all Omar Mateen.
When we keep referring to the Orlando shooting as the largest or deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, ignoring Sand Creek (163), Marias (173) or Wounded Knee (250), masking a history of hatred for nonwhites, we are all Omar Mateen.
When anti-LGBT politicians rush to denounce “radical Islam” or the Pulse massacre while ignoring their own implementation of institutional violence to those dancing that night, we are all Omar Mateen.
When the Religious Right wages a war of hatred against LGBT folk, feminists and foreigners, and we refuse to label this radical Christianity, we are all Omar Mateen.
And when we participate in character assassination rather than discourse; when we legislate exclusion of Americans from voting because they are different than us; when we ignore the cry of the poor; when we persecute the alien among us; when we maintain economic systems that transfer wealth upwards; when we embrace misogynist attitudes and laws; when we believe only we are saved and everyone else is going to hell; when we remain numb to the daily mass shootings; and when destitution, disenfranchisement and decimation are the consequences of our collective actions and thoughts, we are all Omar Mateen.
But there is a better way. A different image can stare back when we gaze into the mirror. Images like those of Martin Luther King Jr., César Chávez, Dorothy Day, Chief Joseph. All who believe in embracing agape, unconditional love, are my spiritual brothers and sisters — regardless of their faith tradition. To love unconditionally is what America desperately needs, to move away from our current culture of death, a culture of exploitation.
Reading our newspapers, watching our politicians and listening to our ministers we find evidence that proves we are more comfortable with a culture of hatred, a culture rooted in the survival of the fittest. Let those of us who claim to be disciples of agape stop talking about our current predicament, and instead commit to praxis that can bring us closer to a different reality.
In the midst of hatred that led to the Orlando massacre, and the hatred that followed in reaction to the shooting, let those of us who claim to be of faith, respond with love — a love that is unconditional to the thoughts, comments or actions of those who find hatred, blaming and division more effective.
First Published in Baptist News Global