Omar Mateen went to die Sunday morning. He left his home in Fort Pierce, Florida and drove two hours to a gay nightclub in Orlando with the intent to die and the intent to murder. We can not know what thoughts led him to choose death over life. We can not know what led him to choose to murder gay men of color as his last deliberate act on this earth. We do know he deliberately caused hurt and heartache and loss and fear. We know that the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” could not have been valued in his thoughts. His final act was a deliberate act of evil. And how are we to respond to the problem of evil in the world? That is the question we are left with.
Some will want to dig into the why of Omar Mateen’s actions, but at a fundamental level evil doesn’t give you a logical, rational, satisfying reason why. Evil isn’t about why or what or how. Seeking answers to evil in these questions is like looking for the corner of a perfect sphere. It doesn’t exist.
Our normal methods of finding meaning and deducing actions in response don’t hold in situations like this. How should we respond to evil?
There is a natural instinct to respond to violence with violence, to meet hatred with hatred, to seek vengeance and the justice of retribution. The Bible says an eye for an eye. But Omar Mateen went to die and is dead. His death alone doesn’t fill the void that his actions caused. That is part of the mystery of evil. Fighting it on its own terms with an eye for eye as Gandhi noted leaves the whole world blind.
I’m a follower of Christ and as Christians we have the example of Jesus who offered mercy and forgiveness to those who persecuted him. In our hurt and anger, mercy and forgiveness hardly seem a fitting response.
I’ve heard it said with tongue in cheek, “Jesus loves you … so I don’t have to.”
Can our answer to senseless evil really be as simple (and as hard) as loving our neighbor? Love our neighbor the Muslim, love our lesbian gay bisexual transgender neighbor, love our neighbor the person of color, love our neighbor whose politics we despise — love all our neighbors as ourselves?
Arthur Fullerton is a Ruling Elder at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Albany, NY and Chair of the Albany Presbytery Board of Trustees. He consults with nonprofits about fundraising and organizational leadership. You can reach Arthur by email firstname.lastname@example.org.