Don't Blame United Methodists for the Terror in Orlando

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Mark Tooley is the president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD).

United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcano of the California-Pacific Conference responded to the Orlando gay nightclub mass murders by a reported pro-ISIS Islamist with the suggestion that her denomination's traditional marriage teaching is to blame:

"As I have prayed for the victims of this latest shooting, for the shooter and his family, for the people of Orlando, and for us, I have been struck by a concern that has penetrated my heart. Is it possible that we United Methodists with such a negative attitude and position against LGBTQI persons contribute to such a crime? When we say that those who are of a homosexual gender identity are living lives that are incompatible with Christian teaching, that they are not to be included in our ordained leadership, and that they are not important enough for us to invest resources of the Church in advocating for their well-being, in essence when we say that our LGBTQI brothers and sisters are not worthy of the fullness of life that Christ offers us all, are we not contributing to the kind of thinking that promotes doing harm to these our brothers and sisters, our children, the sacred children of God?"

United Methodism's definition of marriage as the union of man and woman is unexceptionably the official and historic stance of about 99% of organized Christianity, including Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and nearly every Protestant tradition except a handful of shrinking denominations in northwestern Europe and North America.

The Orlando killer, Omar Mateen, was the son of a pro-Taliban Afghan immigrant. It's unlikely he ever heard of United Methodism. To the extent that he had any views about Christianity they were almost certainly hostile. Since he professed support for ISIS, he likely supported ISIS persecution and murder of Christians.

ISIS practices traditional Islamic law, which requires death for homosexuals. Several Islamic regimes stipulate death penalties for homosexuals, including Iran, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

Bishop Carcano in her blog about Orlando never mentions the killer or his ISIS or Islamist connection. She only faults the United Methodist Church.

There is a myopic vein of Western multiculturalism popular within liberal Protestantism that assumes the world is safe and beautiful but for the crimes of Western Civilization and Christianity. There are indeed many crimes attributable to denizens of both, but neither invented nor has a monopoly on crime, which has always been endemic to the human experience. This vein of multiculturalism is typically incapable of admitting sins within other cultures and religions, preferring to see them only as victims.

In 2004 I submitted a series of resolutions to the United Methodist General Conference critiquing some of the world's worst human rights abusers according to groups like Amnesty International, such as North Korea, China, Iran, Cuba, among others. They were all defeated in the Church and Society legislative committee.

One critic complained I was targeting anti-American regimes. But I included Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco and Pakistan, which are traditional U.S. strategic allies. My resolutions cited harsh penalties for homosexuals by both Islamic and communist regimes. Yet there was no interest even by United Methodist activists who profess to support gay rights.

In this vein, a prominent pro-LGBTQ delegate from last month's United Methodist General Conference named Dorothee Benz has been tweeting in support of Bishop Carcano's blog blaming United Methodism and Christianity for Orlando, plus expressing solidarity with Muslims, without citing radical Islam. No criticism or mention of the killer or his professed Islamist motivation.

Written hours after the ugly news from Orlando, Bishop Carcano's blog was maybe composed hastily. I hope she edits or deletes it. I also hope that some day within official United Methodism, among other places in our culture, there is a more grounded and universal perspective about human evil, embodied by ISIS and the Orlando killer.

Meanwhile, here's a heartfelt response to the Orlando horror by Upper New York United Methodist Bishop Mark Webb, who concludes:

"Lord, in your mercy allow goodness to overcome evil and light to pierce the darkness, comfort those who mourn, touch those who need your healing and provide peace in the midst of fear. Lord, in your mercy allow goodness to overcome evil and light to pierce the darkness."

Originally posted at juicyecumenism.com.

Prior to joining the IRD in 1994, Mark worked eight years for the Central Intelligence Agency. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and is a native of Arlington, Virginia. A lifelong United Methodist, he has been active in United Methodist renewal since 1988, when he wrote a study about denominational funding of pro-Marxist groups for his local congregation. He attends a United Methodist church in Alexandria, Virginia. Follow Mark on Twitter @markdtooley.