My Story, Experiences & Perspective after the Orlando Massacre
On Saturday evening around 8pm, I took my older children to see the memorial for Christina Grimmie at the Plaza Theater just a few minutes away from my home near a shopping center we go to regularly. We were saddened by the Friday night shooting of this beautiful 22 year old singer who recently rose to fame through the NBC competition The Voice. However, the sadness of this event was nothing compared to what I was about to learn the next day–another horrible tragedy would occur just six hours later and only a couple of miles away.
I first learned about the shooting…
I first learned about the Orlando shooting while I was in church with my family on Sunday morning. A friend of mine in the counter terrorism community started texting me regarding the shooting. I immediately read the news story on Drudge Report and was stunned to learn, not just the extent of the killing, but that it happened so close to my office and home. My family and I drive through and shop in that area known as South Downtown (or “SoDo”) near the Pulse nightclub every week. At the close of the church service, the pastor asked all of us to gather in small groups and pray for the families of the victims. Stunned with disbelief by the details of the story I had read just moments ago, I could barely speak, much less pray.
Right after church, I spoke with Senator Marco Rubio who had called my cell phone and briefed me on what facts were known at that time by government officials. He also asked me to encourage our supporters, pastors and other church leaders around the state to please pray for the families of those killed and for the City of Orlando.
In the hours that followed, I learned that this shooting was the “deadliest mass shooting in US history.” It happened right in my community, to many who identified as gay, and at the hands of an Islamic jihadist. I became physically sick to my stomach and disturbed to the core over this news.
Sunday afternoon, I worked with my staff by phone and text issuing the following public statement as soon as possible:
“The people shot by the Islamic jihadist were sons and daughters, mothers and fathers. They were citizens and workers. They were precious souls. Most importantly they were people who were made in the image and likeness of God himself. They were image bearers of the Creator and worthy of dignity, value, and respect.
This is an unspeakable tragedy and we should take extended time to mourn, to pray for the families of those murdered and injured, and to consider the depth of evil in the hearts of men that this senseless act represents. Finally, we should also pray for and support law enforcement as they investigate and bring to justice all persons involved.”
I was mocked and openly attacked by gay-rights activists simply for asking people to pray for those injured and the families of those killed.
“I will work against you and your hate”
“Your beliefs and words aid society in seeing LGBTQ people as ‘less than human’ which justifies killings like this.”
“Shame on Mr Stemberger! Shame on all … who follow this hate monger!”
“Just checked out your page- you ARE a hate group”
“Get out of my city!”
You support “violence against LGBT citizens”
“STOP THE HATE”
“You have demonized in the past with your words, words that inflicted violence.”
“Mr. Stemberger hates gays. He founded several hate groups to further this hatred!”
“How about you stop advocating hate”
“You mean the precious souls you encourage your supporters to hate”
“You spew hateful rhetoric”
After reading my public statement, even Orlando Sentinel columnist George Diaz wrote a syndicated column Tuesday that went out to newspapers nationwide. In his column, he personally called me a “gay basher” and said “the LGBT community doesn’t want a drop of your crocodile tears. They see what you do as hate crimes.”
“A Time for Weeping and a Time for Justice”
I also tweeted out several messages Sunday on Twitter including one that said: “There will soon be a time for anger, Justice & exposing radical Islam. This is not that time. This is a time for prayer & mourning. Ecclesiastes 3 ” So we must pray for and demonstrate great compassion for the victims and families of those who were murdered. Our faith demands nothing less as our first and initial response.
Several well-meaning supporters of ours have even disagreed and some publicly criticized me for calling for prayer and a time of mourning before expressing anger and demanding justice. I stand by my original statements. Unless we are a first responder–police, fire, or medical personnel, our first response as Christians to any crisis of this magnitude should be to drop to our knees and pray for and mourn with the victims and families who have been affected by this tragedy. We should ask God for mercy, and to give us wisdom and help us to be focused on what is most important in those moments.
Prepare to be attacked and publicly condemned if you disagree.
Christians should be prepared to be attacked and persecuted if they do not bow down and pledge allegiance to the gay pride flag and all it supposedly represents. In stunned disbelief, I was listening to CNN at 1:30am on Sunday night and I heard the leading gay-rights activist from Los Angeles being interviewed. She openly said you don’t need to find a terrorist cell to find this kind of hatred. All you need to do is look right here in America at fundamentalist Christians. The CNN anchor did NOTHING at all to challenge her or question her about her outrageous claim.
Last night on CNN, Anderson Cooper (who I normally respect for being objective and fair) shamelessly transformed from reporter to radical gay activist when he began to attack Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, saying it was hypocritical for her to express concern for the LGBT community because she acted to uphold the marriage amendment passed by 62% of Floridians. He was relentless at making this highly offensive and intellectually dishonest accusation.
We need to be prepared for the stunning and false narrative of the Left which is that all major world religions, including but especially Christianity, breed hatred and create a hostile environment which “causes” the kind of violence we saw in Orlando. The goal of gay-rights activists is to try and get Christians to stop proclaiming God’s design for marriage, gender and human sexuality. And they are not playing fair. The goal to simple. If you disagree in any way, no matter how gentle, loving or respectful they will call you a “hater” and a “bigot.” They will scream at you publicly and test how committed you are to your beliefs. Their strategy is to manipulate and bully Christians into submission to the new orthodoxy of the moral revolution. Please know that as for me and “our house” at the FFPC, we will never be moved by this attempt at intimidation.
We need more AMERICAN flags, not rainbow flags!
The Pulse nightclub is right next to a Dunkin Doughnuts, Wendy’s, Radio Shack and a 7-11 store where I often buy gas and get my children Slurpees. I ride my bike through this area of town often. This is in part why this tragedy has affected me so deeply. This is my community. These are our streets and neighborhoods. The people that were killed and injured are not just “gay.” They are human beings! They are my neighbors! They are fellow Americans! Honestly, I am really tired of seeing special interest rainbow flags and wish we could see more American flags, as we stand together in unity against our greatest mutual enemy, radical Islamic jihadists!
Sadly, it seems that today our nation’s flag flies more often at half-staff then it flies full and high. It’s almost as if the tune to Taps is being played over our country as America and her first principles are slipping away. But we can reverse this! We can recover as a nation if we unite around what is true, just and beautiful. We are all human beings made in the image and likeness of God. We are also all Americans.
I love the dialog in the Two Towers Lord of the Rings trilogy when Sam says… “There is some good in this world Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for!” Well there is still a lot of good in the world and in America that is worth fighting for.
We Will Never Stop Fighting for What is Good
Please know that no matter how fierce the opposition is we will never stop defending God’s design for marriage, human sexuality and family structures. We will do this unapologetically, but in ways to try and reach this lost and dying world. We will never stop fighting against the attack on these institutions and we will never stop proclaiming the truth in love. We will always seek to do two things at the same time with equal intensity and with no contradiction. We will love people and speak truth. Jesus commanded us to do nothing less.
The most common question I get is “How do you continue to work and labor doing what you do and not get discouraged?” The answer is that I have come to grips with my role long ago. I just want to be faithful till the very end. Do we stop proclaiming the Gospel or speaking truth in love because the world rejects the truth? Do we give up on evangelism because we are not “winning” and seeing results with unbelievers? Do we give up as parents because we are not seeing “results” in our children? No, we develop a holy resilience to failure and setbacks and press on in faithful obedience to any task that we are called to accomplish.
We are serious about fighting and winning the battles we engage in. But our goal ultimately is to be faithful. I am done with the emotional ups and downs of the roller coaster of wins and losses—super-elated with a win or totally depressed with a loss. I want to learn the discipline of being content with the knowledge that I was faithful to do everything within our influence to stand for life, marriage, and family. Until the end…
Thank you for your prayers, your financial support, and for standing with us.
John Stemberger, President
PS- I am enclosing a number of educational resources below, along with other ways that you can help.
What can I do in light of the Orlando shooting?
RADIO: FFPC President John Stemberger was interviewed on Moody Radio Monday, where he shared his own personal story and perspective on the Orlando nightclub shooting. The shooting occurred just down the road from FFPC’s office in Orlando. Listen here to the interview on SoundCloud.
PERSPECTIVE: Maggie Gallagher wrote a thought-provoking article in the National Review Monday quoting the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore and FFPC’s John Stemberger as she admonished her readers that this is “Not an Occasion to Score Political Points…”
Our friend Michael Brown wrote a great article entitled “Right and Wrong Reactions to the Tragic Massacre in Orlando.”
And Gary Bauer shared his thoughts on why the Left is covering up the shooter’s ties to radical Islam in “This is Becoming the Left’s M.O.”
National Review addressed the topic of the Left’s denial of radical Islam in the article,“Obama Would Rather Declare War on the English Language than Speak of Islamic Terrorism.”
SOCIAL MEDIA: We have created several social media graphics for you to share and use on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram over the next week. Let us all come together with symbols and messages that unite us and do not divide us. First and foremost, we are human beings made in the image of God–and then we are Americans. How about we show more American flags in solidarity and less multi-colored special interest symbols? Download and use our social media graphics (including a Facebook profile picture) HERE.
BLOOD: Wherever you may be in Florida (but especially in Orlando), you can help by donating blood. There is an urgent need for O Negative, O Positive, and AB Plasma blood donors. Currently, they are overwhelmed with blood donors (out the door!) at local clinics, but the Orlando Sentinel is reporting that OneBlood (officially coordinating the drive) has requested those wishing to donate blood to return in the coming days as the stock will need to be replenished to continue supporting those in need. You can also make an appointment to donate blood with the American Red Cross. You can also volunteer at Orlando hospitals.
“This is an unspeakable tragedy and we should take extended time to mourn, to pray for the families of those murdered and injured, and to consider the depth of evil in the hearts of men that this senseless act represents. We should also pray for and support law enforcement as they investigate and bring to justice all persons involved.” You can read John Stemberger’s full statement about the tragedy released in an email Sunday calling Christians to mourn and pray here. There are also many prayer vigils you can attend in your city and in cities across Florida.
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