By Jonathan Williams

 

There is a joke.

A man stands on his rooftop as floodwaters surround him. He prays, “God help me!” Soon after his prayer a boat comes by but the man refuses to get in. “God will help me!” He says. A helicopter comes by and someone throws down a rope. The man refuses to grab the rope. “God will help me!” He says.

The man eventually succumbs to the floodwaters. He perishes and is taken to heaven. Once in heaven, the man confronts God. “I prayed for help during the flood waters! Why didn’t you come to my rescue!” God replies, “I sent a boat and I sent a helicopter, you idiot!”

After yet another tragedy I’m angry, confused, and hurt.

I see the posts. “Pray for Orlando.” It’s the same sentiment we posted for Paris, San Bernardino, Oregon, Newtown, Charleston, Aurora, and Blacksburg. Only the place has changed.

I will not pray for Orlando because the truth is that God has already answered our prayers. We’re not paying attention.

We have the God-given capability to stop dangerous people from buying assault rifles. The AR-15 has been used to kill 49 people in Orlando. The same weapon was used to kill 20 children in Newtown. It’s the same weapon that killed 12 people in a Colorado movie theater. This is the weapon that congress has continually proposed to ban. It is the weapon that was designed by the military to kill with accuracy. And yet the AR-15 is the weapon that congress continually refuses to ban due to some passionate lobbying from the NRA.

I will not pray for Orlando.

We have the God-given power to create common sense laws when it comes to driving. We take tests, practice driving, and take driver education courses. Once we’ve gone through the process of permits, classes, tests, and insurance we can finally get behind the wheel of the car.

We have no-fly lists and exhaustive security measures that have us at the airport two hours before our flights leave. We even take off our shoes at the airport because one time someone tried to hurt us with a shoe on a plane.

And yet a man who was interviewed three different times by the F.B.I., was proven guilty of physical abuse against his wife, and was flagged for concerns over erratic behavior is allowed to legally purchase an assault rifle. There are no tests, classes, insurance, or exhaustive security measures.

I will not pray for Orlando.

God gave us an inspired text, full of letters, stories, poems, songs, and accounts. In this beautiful text there is one verb that appears more than any other, love.

When asked, Jesus tells us quite literally that the entirety of the scriptures is based on one law,

“Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.” - Luke 10:27

It’s quite clear that our God values love more than anything else. And yet religion has largely focused on six verses that have led many to forsake the commandment of love for division and law. In some part, the religious narrative that makes our LGBTQ brothers and sisters “less than” contributes to this senseless violence.

I will not pray for Orlando.

We spend our time talking creating rhetoric, declaring war, and conveniently identifying an entire religious group as radical terrorists. We follow leaders who want to create a ban on all Muslims and build walls against perceived threats.

Yes, we must address the extreme minority who wish to do evil. Yes, those who promote evil must be held accountable. And yet we promote fear at the expense of an entire people group.

There is Christ who tell us that “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” And yet our common narrative is to fear the other.

No, I will not pray for Orlando,

Here’s what I’ll do.

I’m going to be a part of 225,000 people who want to see a ban on assault rifles. You can do the same here.

I’m going to lobby for thorough gun laws that are proven to limit gun violence.

I will stand with my LGBT brothers and sisters who have long been told they’re not worthy of perfect love. I will stand with my LGBT brothers and sisters who have been told that they’re broken. I will stand with my LGBT brothers and sisters who walk down the streets in fear of hate and bigotry. It is unacceptable that almost 1 in 5 hate crimes in America involve our brothers and sisters who identify as LGBT. We will stand together to affirm each and every child of God.

I will not be afraid. I will not build walls. I will walk by my neighbors, strangers, the ones we call “dangerous” and I will smile, talk, and treat each person as someone to be loved, not feared. I’ll teach my children to do the same.

I will not pray for Orlando. God has answered our prayers. It’s time to grab the rope, jump on the boat, and wake up to the just and generous peacemaking that God asks of each and every one of us!

I’ll pray for those of us who do otherwise.


Jonathan Williams is a writer, speaker, and pastor. Jonathan currently serves as the Senior Pastor of Forefront Church in New York, NY, a progressive institution that works to bring positive change to New York City.

Jonathan has spoken at several national conferences including Exponential, Eastern Christian Conference, and the Organization of Progressive Evangelicals Network. Jonathan's writing appears in the Christian Standard and Rebel Storytellers publications. 

In 2014, Jonathan was named one of the top 40 leaders under 40 by Christian Standard Magazine. 

He currently resides in Brooklyn, NY with his spouse and two daughters.