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BibleandGunOrlando is the place of make-believe. Disney World, Universal Studios, theme parks: They have all served to enchant the imaginations of millions of children and parents alike.

Of course, this magical wonderland was shattered early Sunday morning by the rounds of bullets that killed forty-nine people and injured dozens more at the Pulse nightclub, a gay bar in Orlando. The shooter, Omar Mateen, reportedly declared his allegiance to ISIS in a 911 call prior to his being gunned down by police.

Given that the gunman was an avowed proponent of ISIS, and his father an advocate of the Taliban, one would think that the cause of such a horror would be rather obvious.

But not so. President Barack Obama in his response to the terrorist incident said this: “This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub. And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be.” He was joined by the Daily News headline: “Thanks, NRA: Because of your continued opposition to an assault rifle ban, terrorists like this lunatic can legally buy a killing machine and perpetuate the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.”

But guns were not the only object of demagoguery. ACLU staff attorney Chase Strangio actually went so far as to blame Christians for the attack. He tweeted: “You know what is gross–your thoughts and prayers and Islamophobia after you created this anti-queer climate.”[1] He went on: “The Christian Right has introduced 200 anti-LGBT bills in the last six months, and people are blaming Islam for this. No.” Strangio was not alone. In the aftermath of the attack, the National Center for Lesbian Rights issued the following statement: “In the past two years, cowardly and irresponsible politicians have proposed more than 200 anti-LGBT laws—including those passed this year in North Carolina and Mississippi. Make no mistake, these laws and the pandering of so many elected officials to those who promote anti-LGBT bias foster a toxic climate.”[2]

christiansGiven the rather obvious nature of this terror attack, why would anyone blame guns and conservative Christians, and why would this blame have any plausibility to it? Why does our society find it so difficult to blame radical jihadists for the murders they commit?

I think the key to understanding this incoherence can be found in what scholars call a “risk society,” which refers to the unique ways in which modern people deal with hazards and insecurities as they relate to the future. There are two reasons for why we moderns are unique in the way we handle potential threats and hazards:

First, we are more reliant on scientific and technological processes in our day-to-day living than any previous society. Science and technology have penetrated into virtually every aspect of our lives, from the moment we wake up to a digital alarm and turn on our lights, to making our cup of coffee and microwaving our breakfasts, to driving to work to sitting at a computer sending out emails and texts on our smart phones.

However, secondly, this technological age comes at a cost: technology-based societies tend to reject traditional moral conceptions of life. This is because technology is organized and governed by modern scientific processes which are considered value neutral and thus devoid of moral frames of reference. So, in many respects, we are living in what we might call a “post-traditional” or “post-moral age.” Indeed, this is why we have LGBT values, which are not found in traditional moral societies, in the first place.

And so, these scientific and technological processes have opened up to us a whole new future of unprecedented possibilities and potentialities, but without the aid of traditional morality to guide us into this brave new world.

So now that we are in this post-moral, post-traditional society, the question is: Whom do we blame when massacres like Orlando occur? Post-moral societies basically have two options: They can blame material and environmental factors or they can blame the previous moral tradition that once dominated society but is now reinterpreted as inherently oppressive.

assult rifleWhereas in premodern societies, we might say that something bad happened because we disobeyed God, modern societies have nothing to do with this line of reasoning; instead, we look to material environmental factors such as demographic, economic, political, and social causes-and-effects to explain what happened. This is why we currently have safe spaces on our college campuses. Risk societies control behavior by controlling environments.

And so, in the midst of the Orlando murders, what is the most obvious environmental factor in any mass shooting, regardless of the motive of the assailant? It is the weapon; in the assumptions governing a risk society, the gun inexorably becomes the object of control.

But what about Islam and radical jihadists? Aren’t they a factor in the Orlando shooting? The problem here is that Islam is a religion, and in a post-moral world, all religions are equally valid, privately-held beliefs. As Hillary Clinton said in a recent interview on ABC’s This Week: “There are radicals, people who believe all kinds of things, in every religion in the world.” Because all religions are subjective, there is no longer any basis for declaring one religion to be more violent than any another.

Given that, where does the demagoguery of Christians fit into all of this? Well, you heard it earlier: According to the ACLU attorney, Christians create an “anti-queer climate.” The National Center for Lesbian Rights blamed conservatives for fostering “a toxic climate.” In other words, proponents of traditional moral social norms are an environmental risk; they create social conditions that invite violence and, as risk society logic implies, ought to be regulated.

But I thought we couldn’t fault practitioners of a particular religion? If we can’t blame radical Islam, then certainly we can’t fault conservative Christians, right? Not quite; all post-moral societies emerge from previously dominant moral traditions. And in our case, that would be the thousand year civilization known as Christendom. Thus, Christianity is fair game because in our post-moral society, it alone represents the traditional moral system that arbitrarily oppressed gays, blacks, women, and, yes, Muslims.

allahAnd so, guns and Christians are blamed because we live today in a post-moral society. Such a society has no way of making any sense of this tragedy apart from appealing to environmental factors and previously dominant but oppressive moral traditions.

But perhaps the real tragedy in all of this is the fact that a post-moral society cannot by definition tell the difference between good and evil, or reality from fantasy, since it has removed any objective moral referent by which to make such a differentiation. And if there were a civilizational experiment as dangerous as a society dedicated to evil, it would be one that could not differentiate evil from good.

Indeed, this tragic incident betrays this very incoherence. LGBT values and Islamic values are fundamentally incompatible: one is globalist, the other traditionalist; one is post-moral, the other is hyper-moral; one believes in the sovereign individual, the other believes all sovereignty belongs to Allah. They are mutually exclusive life-worlds that cannot, in the word of the silly bumper sticker, “coexist.”

But this won’t stop our secularized elite from celebrating equality and diversity on the one hand while increasing Muslim immigration, which has doubled since 1992, on the other.[3] In so doing, they will continue to create, however inadvertently, their own highly toxic climate, which threatens a clash of civilizations on our own soil.

In the aftermath of this tragedy, it unfortunately appears that Orlando continues to be a place of make-believe.

Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore

Notes:

[1] Gehrke, Joel. “ACLU Lawyers Blame ‘Christian Right,’ GOP for Orlando Terrorist Attack.” The Washington Examiner. Clarity Media, 12 June 2016. Web. 15 June 2016.

[2] Kendall, Kate, Esq. “NCLR Calls For Accountability After Anti-LGBT Attack.”National Center for Lesbian Rights. N.p., 13 June 2016. Web. 15 June 2016.

[3] Wormald, Benjamin. “The Religious Affiliation of U.S. Immigrants: Majority Christian, Rising Share of Other Faiths.” Pew Research Centers Religion Public Life Project RSS. The Pew Charitable Trusts, 17 May 2013. Web. 15 June 2016.

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14 replies to this post
  1. The only problem with this article is it is too “Nice” in identifying who our enemies are – the ACLU and, more generally, the whole left wing culture of nihilism.

  2. I admit I was rather dumbfounded by President Obama’s speech. I did not vote for him, but I have tried to be fair towards him and sometimes supported certain policies of his like the re-establishment of ties to Iran and Cuba.

    He made a huge political blunder by using the biggest terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11 to attack Donald Trump.

    His words about guns would have been at least understandable if he had at least addressed the problem of radical islam clashing with civilized American culture.

    Conservatives might disagree with the President’s stance on guns, but it is not new. The fact that the President completely ignored the immigration problem, the cultural clash of Islamism vs Americanism and went so far as to invoke a constitutional prohibition on religious tests for office to suggest a prohibition on a religious test for citizenship while attacking Donald Trump instead of radical islam was not just wrong but bad politics .

    Urban Democratic voters , particularly in the LGBTQ community are going to be the prime victims of Islamic terrorism in the future. They can huff and puff that it’s all the fault of churchgoers in Alabama all they want , but unless they pass laws to monitor Mosques and support a ban on Muslim immigration they will continue to die. That is the sad logic of our world now.

    The Christian conservatives derided by the ACLU are mere political opponents . In reality , whether Christian fundamentalist or gay Pulse clubber – we are all Americans – which makes us all targets for radical islamists.

    The Democrats will learn this lesson the hard way, but the more Trump makes the appeal directly to liberal cosmopolitans that multiculturalism will now kill them , the more we can hope that they will prefer the company of Christian conservatives who argue with them about law and morality to the company of radicalized Muslims who kill them.

    As for American Muslims: they need to be at the head of the table where decisions about monitoring radicals are made.

  3. Excellent! I learned some new things from you about post-moral societies and risk societies. I didn’t have those concepts before and did not know how they worked. But after your article, I get it. You explained my thoughts that I could not articulate for lack of concepts. Thank you!

  4. I actually feel that the Islamic Terrorist in Orlando committed his horrific massacre as he claimed: “for revenge against the USA for its war activities in ISIS territories.” The choice of the nightclub was for reasons that were practical to succeed rather than having very much to do with the issues of LGBT religious factors. The 9/11 terrorists were not concerned about sexual issues of the victims on the planes or those who were in or near the buildings they attacked. The goal in both terrorist attacks was high numbers of deaths and destruction, with virtually no resistance. The choice of the nightclub had many factors that would ensure ease of accomplishing his goal: 2AM late night darkness hiding his plans; a place where he had frequented as a customer so as to avoid suspicion, the loud beats of music to hide the initial gun sounds; the huge crowd in a tightly controlled space, with few exits; the fact that a drinking environment would add to the vulnerability of his victims, there would be little resistance. His goal was to kill as many Americans as possible in that attack, for revenge, in service to his loyalty oath to ISIS, or ISIL, the Islamic terrorist group. I suspect the sexual prejudice issue was remote, or even possibly not a factor at all. At 2 AM what were his other options for attack? Most places would be shut down, locked, darkened, maybe even having more security. The nightclub had a huge crowd that was very vulnerable and unprotected.

  5. Sounds right. I have trouble believing that any American citizen would murder other American citizens no matter what the percieved crimes of the government against anyone. Americans who feel passionately about their government’s involvement in foreign wars work to change the government’s policy.

    it is not American to shoot people because you disagree with your government .

    My point ? This guy and his family should not be treated as American citizens . His pledge of allegiance to a terrorist group, made publically and his family’s complicity should be taken at face value as renouncements of US citizenship.

    We need a law not only making it harder for whacko immigrants from shaddy places to become citizens but taking citizenship away from those who are allied to enemies of the USA.

    Congress should pass that kind of law asap.

    Normal Americans who disagree with foreign wars work to change policy. Let’s take citizenship from the abnormal ones.

  6. If Obama insists that the actions of the man in Orlando, the two men in Garland Texas and the man and woman in San Bernadino CA. are not representative of the Muslim faith why does he try to make their actions representative of gun owners?

  7. Tragedies such as the Orlando Massacre challenge Jefferson’s famous quote:

    “But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

    If only he could have foreseen the logical outcome of Polytheistic Religious Freedom.

  8. Thanks for this, it helped me understand it so much better, and I for one am thankful that it had a kind but honest tone that wasn’t too blaming.

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