'We certainly ought to pray, but prayer without action is impudent, and action without prayer is arrogant' - Fr. Frank Quintana
Religious leaders, Counselors Offer Advice After Orlando shootings
Pastor Judith Maynard has served as faith leader for the Metropolitan Community Church of Albuquerque for 14 years. The church originated in Los Angeles in 1968, one year before the Stonewall Riot. Today, this progressive Christian community is found in 33 countries worldwide.
When asked what she tells parishioners in the wake of violence like the Orlando massacre, Maynard said, first and foremost, “we need to not overreact and not demonize the perpetrator, and the Muslim community especially.”
“I don’t think he was a terrorist,” Maynard continued. “I think he saw two men kissing, and that this was an act of homophobia.”
Maynard acknowledges that, while this tragedy was horrific, such struggles are nothing new to her congregation or to the LGBT community. “We’ve been vilified, pushed out, had doors closed in our faces, lost jobs and sometimes families,” Maynard said. “At least this time we seem to be getting a lot of support from the community at large, which is nice.”
Maynard said that although the MCC has had a security team in place for some time, “I refuse to bow down to fear and hate. I believe that God protects me, and that whatever happens happens.”
It is undoubtedly a question that many people of faith ask themselves after mass shootings, bombings, individual shootings, stabbings and any act of violence: “Where the hell is God, and why does he let these things happen?”
And the aftermath of the Orlando massacre is no different. As people attend their churches, synagogues, temples and mosques, the question has undoubtedly crossed more than a few minds.
ABQ Free Press reached out to members of the clergy and others to ask how they respond when that question is put to them. And we talked to a child psychiatrist to ask what he tells children, teens and their parents about violence and how to deal with it.
We asked, basically, whether they see any hope for the human race or whether we are doomed to a never-ending and escalating cycle of intolerance and violence. The clergy were upbeat about the prognosis for the human race. We also talked to members of the LGBT community to ask if they feel safe.
Fr. Frank Quintana, founder of Blessed Oscar Romero Catholic Community:
“We are expecting God to do something that humans are responsible for doing [controlling ourselves and acting peacefully]. God has chosen not to control humans by giving them free will; otherwise we would be automatons and robots, and we wouldn’t need a relationship with God because we would be controlled by him.
“We certainly ought to pray, but prayer without action is impudent, and action without prayer is arrogant. St. Teresa said that Christ has no feet on this Earth but our feet and has no hands on this Earth but our hands. We ought to be channeling God and opening ourselves up to his actions, and we can do that through prayer, which is a relationship with the divine.
“If you look at the moon, it is not emanating its own light; it faces the sun and reflects its sunlight. If we channel the divine, we begin to be empowered, and the divine is able to work through us.
“I don’t trust any human individual, but I trust what Martin Luther King Jr. said about the arc of history, which is a long one, but it has always been toward justice, and the spirit of God will ultimately have the victory against evil, marginalization, hatred and bigotry.”
The Rev. Christine Robinson, First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque:
“The first thing to say is that there was only one human being being nasty and there were hundreds and thousands of other human beings who were being self-sacrificing – giving blood, running into buildings to rescue people, caring for the injured. As shocking as evil is, there is only a little bit of evil, and thousands of people were doing good things. That is what I hold on to.
“We live in a time where one person can get hold of a weapon and do horrible things, but most of the people who were there that night were taking care of each other.
“People who have studied this more than I have say that fewer people die of violence in this day and age than ever in the history of humanity. I don’t know if we are doomed as a species. Whether we are or not, our job is to do the best we can. The message is that more people are doing good than bad. That’s not to say that the bad is not horrible.”
Archbishop John C. Webster, Archdiocese of Santa Fe:
“This latest attack on innocent people has nothing to do with any one religion or ethnic group, and we pray that the sickness of one individual does not spark further hatred by inappropriately placing blame where it does not belong. This is certainly a despicable and inexplicable tragedy, and yet we will not shrink from our resolve to find a path to peace that eradicates bigotry, hatred and violence from our world.
“We remain convinced that the Prince of Peace, our Lord Jesus Christ, will guide us in this endeavor and that one day we will all be united in a bond of love that conquers sin and death.”
Dr. Dan Kerlinsky, Albuquerque child and adolescent psychiatrist:
“Forty percent of kids have fears, and with shootings like this, kids with obsessive-compulsive disorder will get something in their minds, and they can’t let go of it. The OCD kids need a different kind of reassurance. They need the sort of myth that we all live. We tell them that kids are safe, being home is safe, parents keep you safe, God keeps you safe, and guns are not for fun. We tell them that the only things that are real are what is in this room right now. There is no past and no future. We don’t want kids thinking too far ahead. We teach kids how to relax. Meditation keeps you feeling safe.”
Israel Chavez, development and political director of Equality New Mexico:
“The main takeaway from this is it wasn’t about religion or Muslims. It’s about the same hate that causes people to not allow trans people to use the same bathrooms. The same hate used by conservative Christians was used by this man to justify his murders. It’s not unlike the response by Republicans who have introduced more than 200 anti-LGBT bills in the last six months. Now, they don’t care about LGBT, but they will use us as the justification to go after Muslims. We’ve been on the receiving end of it for so long and we recognize it and will not be used in this way. The magnitude of this violence is new, but the basic fact is it happens to us all the time. Instead of making us scared, it makes us stronger and more willing to call out racism and bigotry.”
Abbas Akhil, president of the Islamic Center of New Mexico
“The Islamic Center of New Mexico condemns the deadly shooting in Orlando that has left at least 50 people dead and more than 50 others injured. The ICNM and Albuquerque Muslim community are deeply saddened and troubled by this monstrous attack. We send our heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of those killed or injured. The Muslim community joins our fellow Americans in repudiating anyone or any group that would claim to justify such an appalling act of violence.”
Dennis Domrzalski and M. Brianna Stallings contributed to this story.