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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