When atrocities happen, it’s natural to ask the haunting question, “Why?” We may never fully know what motivated Omar Mateen to kill 49 people. Still, I bristle at the simplistic suggestion that his avowed politics tell the whole story. The picture emerging is sadder, more complicated.
To focus narrowly on “radical Islam,” and treat this as one part of a global terror fight, is to forget the targets, the victims, of this shooting. Mateen did not go to a supermarket, campus or Congress. He went to Pulse, a nightclub that served the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, a place he is said to have frequented.
What we’re learning is a too common revelation of someone violently, viciously responding to desire he experienced but did not understand. This duality extends beyond Islam. How often do we hear of fundamentalist Christian preachers, of Catholic bishops and priests, of ardently religious politicians who spread anti-gay rhetoric and are later outed in same-sex relationships?
As we honor and mourn the lives lost, we must recognize the true struggle is not with “radical Islam” or “radical Christianity” but within each of our souls, learning how not to demonize who and how we love.