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Evangelical Leaders Urge Christians To Extend 'Love of Christ' to Gay Community Following Orlando Massacre

( [email protected] ) Jun 13, 2016 09:45 AM EDT
Evangelical leader Russell Moore has urged Christians to extend the love of Jesus to the LGBT community after suspected Islamic extremist Omar Mir Seddique Mateen opened fire at a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 50 people and wounding dozens of others.
People hold up signs for passing cars at a candlelight vigil in West Hollywood, California, following the early morning shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, U.S. June 12, 2016. REUTERS/David McNew

Evangelical leader Russell Moore has urged Christians to extend the love of Jesus to the LGBT community after suspected Islamic extremist Omar Mir Seddique Mateen opened fire at a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 50 people and wounding dozens of others.

"Let's call our congregations to pray together. Let's realize that, in this case, our gay and lesbian neighbors are likely quite scared. Who wouldn't be?" Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote on his blog.

"Demonstrate the sacrificial love of Jesus to them. We don't have to agree on the meaning of marriage and sexuality to love one another and to see the murderous sin of terrorism," Moore added.

Mateen, 29, an American citizen who was shot dead by a SWAT team after the shooting spree, was investigated by the FBI back in 2013 after making "inflammatory comments" to co-workers alleging possible "terrorist ties."

The following year, the FBI investigated him once again because of ties with an American who traveled to the Middle East to become a suicide bomber.

Law enforcement sources told NBC News he swore allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in a 911 call made 20 minutes before the rampage at Pulse. He also reportedly mentioned the Boston Marathon bombers, a U.S. official said.

At the time of the attack, Matten was armed with a handgun, an assault rifle and an unknown number of rounds, Orlando Police Chief John Mina told reporters. A police officer working as a security guard inside the popular club exchanged fire with the suspect at about 2 a.m., police officials said, according to Reuters. A hostage situation quickly developed, and three hours later SWAT team officers used armored cars to storm the club before shooting dead the gunman.

Matten's family maintains the attack had "nothing to do with religion" and said the shooter wasn't particularly religious, according to CNN. Matten's father told reporters his son may have committed this crime because he saw "two men kissing in Downtown Miami a couple months ago."

However, the Islamic State's Amaq news agency claimed responsibility for the attack Sunday, and a message posted on a site associated with the ISIS news agency Amaq described the attacker as "an Islamic State fighter."

In a blog post, Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and former Muslim, dismissed the family's claims, stating that while many Muslims are "loving, peaceful people who would never want to hurt any American or homosexual," Islam itself "has always taught that gays should be executed."

"How do we not react against all Muslims despite the fact that Islam has always taught such violence?" he asks. "My answer is simple: truth and love. This may sound trite or fanciful, but I am not advocating a whimsical or baseless love, which would never stand in the face of Jihad."

He added, "I think we must respond with a love grounded in truth and self-sacrifice, reflecting the person and heart of Jesus Christ. After all, he died not slaughtering his enemies, but forgiving them. And Christians are to follow in our Savior's steps."

After the attack, President Obama called for for stricter gun laws, referring to the massacre as "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."

Presumptive presidential nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were also accused of "politicizing" the moment after engaging in a Twitter back-and-forth following the shooting.

Moore said, "In the aftermath, we've seen some of the best aspects of America: people lining up, for example, to give blood for the victims. We've also seen some of the worst - as the aftermath turned into an excuse for social media wars over everything from gun control to presidential politics. What I wonder is whether the country still has the capacity to grieve, together, in moments of national crisis."

He added, "Our national divisions increasingly make it difficult for us not just to work together, but even to pause and weep together. We become more concerned about protecting ourselves from one another's political pronouncements than we do with mourning with those who mourn."