David McConkey - Columnist, Consultant, Citizen
Columnist. Consultant. Citizen.

Expectations in the Wake of the Orlando Massacre

Brandon Sun, June 27, 2016 - David McConkey

The recent mass shooting in Orlando, Florida has got us reeling. And got us processing our feelings, thoughts and prejudices. Among the questions raised for me was about our expectations.

Americans need to deal with their particular issues, like their access to guns and their deadlocked politics. But all of us need to deal with the larger issues that revolve around the Orlando shooting, including homophobia, religion and terrorism.

Events and issues are not isolated in the world. Because of the Orlando shooting, pride week programs in Brandon took additional security precautions. We all live in a post-Orlando world now. 

My wife and I attended the vigil held at Brandon city hall a few days after the Orlando massacre. The words of the speakers at the vigil were moving and heartfelt. I had not realized the extent of the pain and violence experienced by members of the LGBT community here in Brandon. I was taken aback: our city is not as accepting, peaceful and friendly as often portrayed.
After Orlando, attention has again been focused on “political correctness.” For example, how much should we talk about the link between homophobia and religion – in this case, with Islam?

Unfortunately, the attitudes toward homosexuality of most Muslims are appalling. The Pew Research Center in 2013 conducted a public opinion poll of Muslims in 36 countries. Some examples of the small number of Muslims who believe homosexual behaviour is morally acceptable: Albania 5%, Egypt 1%, Indonesia 1%, Kenya 2%, Malaysia 2%, Pakistan 1%, Tunisia 2%, Turkey 3%. 
A Gallup poll in 2009 found that 0% (yes, zero) of British Muslims believe that homosexual acts were morally acceptable.

Anti-gay religious beliefs have consequences: for individuals, for families and for countries. In a number of Muslim-majority countries, homosexuality is not just frowned upon, it is punishable by imprisonment or even death.

Now, some might ask, “So what? Shouldn’t people have the right to their own religious beliefs? Why care about countries like Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia and who they put in prison or who they execute?”

But attitudes in one place affect everyone else in our global village. And the people who are suffering in those countries are – after all – our fellow global citizens.

What about bigotry and expectations? Especially, what has been called “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” For example, an expectation seems to be that Muslims are just stuck with having outdated ideas and ways of living. So we aren’t supposed to talk about how Islamic beliefs and customs should be improved. That kind of conversation is not “politically correct.” It’s “Islamophobic.”
Folks, let’s set aside that bigotry! We should not underestimate the potential of any group of people. We should have the expectation that all people – whatever their religion – can have modern ideas, good values, and progressive practices.

The opposite of low expectations is high expectations. For example, we Canadians have high expectations of the United Church. Ever since it accepted women as ministers in 1936, we have looked to the United Church for leadership.

In 1988, the United Church made another landmark decision: to accept openly gay and lesbian individuals into church ministry. At the quarter-century mark of that policy, the editor of the United Church Observer magazine noted that the United Church has paid a steep price for that leadership. The editor concluded, “The exodus of thousands of members after 1988 accelerated a decline in numbers and finances that continues to plague the church to this day.”
The United Church may be fading, but it is still there for the LGBT community. At the vigil at city hall, we all held candles – provided by Brandon’s Knox United Church. Yet it seemed natural that the United Church did not need to be recognized at the vigil.
We have the expectation that the United Church will do the heavy lifting – not just on behalf of women, or of the LGBT community, but of everyone. So we just expect that there is no need for us to even say, “thank you.”

Hey! It’s the 21st century. Time to tune up our expectations.

* * * *
See also: 

Gay, Good or God? 

Authors Leading Vital Conversation About Islam

Churches in the News

Book Provides Intriguing, Scientific Glimpse into State of Religious Beliefs

Book Looks at Islamic World

Citizen Active



David McConkey,
Brandon, Manitoba
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