Saturday night 50 people were killed in a terrorist attack in Orlando, Florida. Orlando is less than 100 miles from where I live, so it literally hits close to home.
Moments after the attack, social media blew up with news reports. And it wasn’t long before people started reacting by sharing their thoughts and opinions.
At first it was shock, outrage, sadness… prayers and sympathies for the victims and their families. Then there was a lot of trying to understand who was the attacker and why did he did it. From there a lot of the conversation seems to have turned to how it happened and how we can prevent terrorist attacks in the future. OK, that’s the polite way to describe it.
Blame and politics is probably more accurate.
As a Christian, I found myself asking…
How Can I as a Christian Respond Online to Tragedy?
Here are 5 ways…
1) Offer prayer and sympathy. Usually posting prayers for the victims and their families is a safe response. But in this case, because the attack was on a gay night club, many homosexuals and gay advocates proclaimed it an attack on their community. And some Christians felt conflicted as if standing with the victims meant standing for the gay community and the homosexual agenda.
If we genuinely believe the principle “hate the sin but love the sinner,” we can show love and support for the victims of any tragedy. We don’t have to rainbow our profile pics to do it.
2) Help those in need. It’s nice to say we “support” or “stand with” the victims and their families, but sometimes when we say that, all we really mean is we feel bad for them. We can take our support from just words to action. Look for organizations in the area that are doing things to help those affected. See what they need. Prayerfully consider sending money or other supplies. It may be possible to order supplies from an online retailer and have them delivered to the organization. Share links to stories and information about organizations and encourage others to support them.
3) Respond in social media with encouragement. After an event like this many people post their raw, unfiltered emotional reactions on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media platforms. We see fear, anger, sadness, hopelessness and more. We can look for opportunities to encourage those who are struggling to make sense of things.
4) Avoid blaming. Everyone wants to understand why this happened and prevent future attacks, but there are people who use tragedies to demonize their political opponents. Look around and you will see people blaming the president, the NRA, all Muslims, gays and others. People who blame look like haters and seem more concerned with their own agenda than the people affected by the tragedy.
I’m not saying we can’t engage in genuine discussion about gun rights/control, immigration, how to combat terrorism and other issues, but if and when we do, it should be with a thoughtful tone and in a solution-oriented way.
5) Point people to Jesus. Our culture today is primarily secular humanist. People look for human solutions to solve problems and keep us safe. Sure, governments can make us safer, charities can help those in need, and good people can be good neighbors, but nothing can keep us 100% safe. Pain and suffering are inevitable in this life. We will all die and we will all face tragedy in one form or another.
But through Jesus we have hope.
We have hope that this life is not all there is. Jesus paid the penalty for our sin so we can be reconciled with God and spend eternity with him in a place where there is no more pain, suffering and tragedy.
We have hope that God is at work in this world now. He gives is comfort, peace and strength in the midst of the most horrible circumstances.
Sometimes it is through tragedy that people wake up to the reality that we don’t have control. We can’t keep ourselves safe. And people become open to the better life God offers us through Jesus. In these times, we can point people to Jesus online and offline.
What do you think?
- How have you responded online to the Orlando terror attack?
- What do you think Christians can do online in response?