Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

The Orlando Massacre & The Ethical Dilemma for Conservative Christians


What happened in Orlando recently is certainly worthy of outrage and action. 49 people killed in cold blood, and many more lying in hospital beds wounded. Between the lives cut short, and the lives that will never be the same, Orlando should be a moment the nation does not soon forget.

Certainly tragedies, natural disasters, and acts of terror have a way of bringing the nation together—and this is good. Finding solidarity and common ground wherever it exists should always be celebrated. However, and I have to be honest—the conservative Christian response to the Orlando massacre has left me scratching my head at times.

In the wake of the massacre, folks like Franklin Graham have expressed both sympathy and outrage. In that sympathy and outrage however, it’s as if they have forgotten their own belief system and are using this as an “ahhahhh!” moment to point out the dangers of the Islamic religion.

For example, Franklin Graham correctly noted on Facebook that this was an attack specifically on the LGBTQ community. He went onto say that “Islam’s Koran spells out very clearly their hatred for gays, Christians, and Jews,” as if being anti-LGBTQ is something he finds repulsive as a conservative Christian.

And here’s where I honestly get confused as to where folks like Franklin feel they have the moral high ground or superior worldview when it comes to attitudes toward LGBTQ individuals. In the end, are the conservative Christian views held by these folks all that better? Does their flavor of Christianity offer a more beautiful alternative to the type of ideology the Orlando shooter may have held?

Sadly, no. And that’s what’s so odd about the conservative Christian response. Yes, they are correct to denounce the evil that led to such a horrific massacre. But no, they don’t have a moral or ideological alternative that gives them a moral high ground that’s perched high enough to pretend their religious views are all that better.

 Let’s break it down:

 (A) By affirming the traditional conservative evangelical view of inerrancy, one would also have to affirm that God himself instituted the death penalty for homosexuality in the Mosaic Law (or at least, male-male homosexuality).

(B) By affirming the traditional conservative evangelical view of salvation, one would also affirm that LGBTQ people are not saved and thus cannot go to heaven unless they repent of being LGBTQ (as if that were even possible).

(C) If one affirms the traditional conservative evangelical view of hell, one would also have to affirm that all of the Orlando shooting victims are being burned alive at this very moment, and that their torture in the flames of hell will continue unabated for all of eternity.

So here’s my question: how in the world does holding these three positions provide one the moral high ground to pretend such an ideology is significantly better than the one held by the Orlando shooter? How can one claim that God commanded execution for LGBTQ people, but then say, “Hey look! Muslims hate gay people. Just read their Koran and see for yourself!” while still keeping a straight face?

I’ll save you the trouble and just answer it for you: It doesn’t. And one can’t.

Sure, if one held these three beliefs (as Franklin Graham and crew do) there’s still plenty of room to decry the murder of innocent people. However, there is not room for pretending that their religious worldview is morally superior in respect to LGBTQ people.

And this makes the conservative Christian response curious at best, and a gross example of using a tragedy to play into their war against Muslims at worst.

I have seen some conservative Christians argue that the Orlando shooting presents a major problem for progressive Christians because we have been known for loving and accepting LGBTQ people as well as denouncing Islamophobia. They incorrectly believe that we must now choose between the LGBTQ community and speaking against the oppression of Muslims in our country.

But progressive Christians aren’t the one with the moral conundrum. The ethical problem is actually for our conservative brothers and sisters, who must now figure out how to hold a belief that God views LGBTQ people as worthy of death, while denouncing a particular Muslim who happened to agree with them.

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Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

It's not the end of the world, but it's pretty #@&% close. Trump's America & Franklin Graham's Christianity must be resisted.

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13 Responses

  1. Your ‘B’ and ‘C’ points are not correct representations of a conservative Christian view.
    B) Conservative Christianity holds that homosexual acts, not being homosexual is what must be repented of. It is possible for a person to have homosexual tendencies and still be saved in the same way that literally every single person has sinful tendencies, but can still be saved.
    C) We can’t know that every person in that bar was destined for Hell. Just like every other person, God will judge based on the heart of the individual, and we have no way of knowing their heart. All we can do is say that homosexual acts are sinful and that people should try to not do sinful things. We can’t go so far as to say that every person who does a sinful thing is destined for Hell. That would mean that every person is destined for Hell.

  2. This is my second “run in” with Dr. Corey, and I am twice as “exercised” against his views this time. It is worse when I not only disagree, but find stupidity as well.
    First: Just where and when did Graham claim a higher moral ground than others?

    Would it be closer to the truth in your estimation if Graham had said he agreed that “the LGBTQs should be killed?” Why do you imply that, as you obviously do?

    A Christian is not under the Mosaic Law, and neither are Jews at this time. God has set Israel aside until some time in the future. So far both A. and B. are false.
    C. is false for no one knows the spiritual state of any of the victims at the time of their death. Mr. Corey- Get a Life!

  3. Thank you for writing what I too have been mulling over in my head lately. I wouldn’t care (and I ultimately don’t) what Evangelical conservative Christians believe about gay folks except that they spend so much time, money, and energy attempting to keep alive old ideas in the political arena about what it means to be gay and how bad/evil/dangerous it is for the country. THAT is a problem for me. Lately they remind me of the wife-beater that laments the situation of the beaten wife next door. Clean your own house first, THEN we can focus on the neighbors, but until then a wife-beater-is a wife-beater is a wife-beater.

  4. Benjamin:
    Sure, if one held these three beliefs (as Franklin Graham and crew do) there’s still plenty of room to decry the murder of innocent people. However, there is not room for pretending that their religious worldview is morally superior in respect to LGBTQ people.

    Ronny to Benjamin:
    Thank you Benjamin, for this post of yours. 🙂 I grew up in church, under some people, much like Franklin Graham. And it was people like that, who taught me to hate, despise and look down upon myself, because I was gay. And I got taught that, starting at 12 years old. Long story; but ultra-fundamentalist Christians, they “kill” some gay people, in their way. The only difference I see between them and the Orlando shooter/murderer, is that they kill/abuse both younger and older gay people, in a different way. And the greatest irony of all, is they truly think they are following Jesus Christ, in how they do this; but then, they aren’t.

  5. As a ‘conservative evangelical’, and a gay one at that, I would not pick up a gun and kill gay people even though I believe God condemns gay sex. It is not hypocritical to condemn such actions, whether carried out by a muslim, so-called Christian or atheist. In the New Testament, Paul had to deal with effectively a case of incest (a son sleeping with his step-mother). Under the Leviticus code, execution was the punishment. But the apostle simply tells the local church to excommunicate him, at least until he stops his behaviour (Paul’s use of terms such as ‘hand him over to Satan’ shows how seriously he viewed this behaviour, showing a definite sense of judgment being handed down to this man). Paul also condemns the local church for perversely being ‘proud’ of this relationship. But he didnt say – he should be executed. So Paul clearly does not believe the Leviticus punishments, given to Israel at a specific time, to be now appropriate (and this is 2000 years ago from today). He does however still clearly view incest as morally wrong.

    So I dont see why an evangelical Christian (Im speaking for myself not Franklin Graham as I dont know him) should feel hypocritical at condemning this gunman’s actions, regardless of his own beliefs, sexuality or life experience. Or do we simply ignore the New covenant?

  6. I completely agree with the analysis of the conservative Christian hypocrisy on this issue. No one in their right mind can take any of their condolences as heartfelt.

    I also tend not to take many progressive Christian condolences too seriously either until I see true introspection and self criticism and theological reevaluation. A religious view that still values and hold up the same bible as the conservatives as meaningful and god-inspired is equally bad as the conservative view when it comes to glbt issues. As a gay man, I know that conservatives think I am bad and going to hell if I act on my desires. I also know that progressive Christians think I am only a moral gay person if I seek a committed monogamous relationship. Both cults have a sexual morality based on a biblical interpretation, and both cults send negative messages about gay sex everyday. Sorry, can’t buy the criticism of one view by someone whose views are only slightly “more friendly”.

  7. I love how one of the favorite anti-Islam statements of your average fundy is that Islam is “worse” to the LGBTQ community than they are. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t, but after a decades-long crusade against that demographic from the pulpit and the government, the American religious right is in no position to make an accusation like that. Once they stop bitching about gay couples getting married, spreading lies that sexual orientation is a “lifestyle”, shoving Leviticus 18:22 in everyone’s faces, trying to force LGBTQ citizens to “repent” for their arbitrary “sins”, and advocating for fraudulent “gay conversion therapy”, and actually start affirming and accepting them as they are, then that statement might have some weight, but they’ve got a few gallons of blood to wash off their hands before then.

  8. Benjamin, You wrote, “…the conservative Christian response to the Orlando massacre has left me scratching my head at times.”

    The same can be said about me observing you and other progressive Christian bloggers who defend Islam which is far more negative than the vast majority of Christians at present. Except for a few places such as Uganda, I don’t know of anywhere that large numbers of Christian leaders are supporting the punishment of same sexual persons.

    But the vast majority of Muslims in many countries oppose same sexuality.

    Why do you oppose conservative Christians, but repeatedly support and defend Muslims who take a much more literal view of the Quran, thinking that their book is eternal and perfect, and they support Sharia Law, and support jihad, and support punishment of ex-Muslims.

    Check out the statistics from Pew.
    “Overwhelming majorities in the predominantly Muslim countries surveyed also say homosexuality should be rejected, including 97% in Jordan, 95% in Egypt, 94% in Tunisia, 93% in the Palestinian territories, 93% in Indonesia, 87% in Pakistan, 86% in Malaysia, 80% in Lebanon and 78% in Turkey.”

    Or read any news, human rights documentation, etc. of the huge number of Muslims worldwide who oppress, harm, even kill former Muslims, heretical Muslims, etc.

    Side note: I personally don’t have a dog…er God in this fight because I am an ex-Christian, and even for most of the 55 years I was a Christian I was a very, very liberal Christian. I was a liberal Quaker, Anabaptist, and before that liberal Baptist.

  9. It must also be noted that whereas Leviticus calls for the death of a Jewish male who has engaged in homosexual acts, no such death-punishment for the homosexual actor is prescribed in the Qur’an.

  10. Cognitive dissonance much?

    (for our conservative brothers and sisters)
    ‘how to hold a belief that God views LGBTQ people as worthy of death, while denouncing a particular Muslim who happened to agree with them.’

  11. Point by point, with biblical paraphrasing:
    A) All sin leads to death. The current societal outlook on the sin does not impress God.
    B) No one is saved, except by God’s grace. As a conservative Christian, I shudder to think that I could get what I deserve, except for that grace.
    C) We have no standing to judge. Refer back to point B.

  12. I also wondered how this was going to go down, because it does create kind of a perfect storm for certain segments of evangelicalism. To simply my examples, I’m going to refer to these segments as The Chunk.

    On the one hand, it’s a horrible, violent thing that even The Chunk should condemn, although some of them are not.

    On the other hand, The Chunk already blames various acts of death and destruction in the U.S. on the presence of homosexuality.

    On the other other hand, this attack on homosexuals was done by a Muslim, which The Chunk also despises.

    So, The Chunk is getting pulled in all kinds of directions. A catastrophe happened to a people group who deserves catastrophe at the hands of another group who also deserves catastrophe – a catastrophe that any halfway moral person would condemn.

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