The blame-game started soon after news broke about the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
Blame Obama. Blame guns. Blame gun-rights advocates for blocking gun-control legislation. Blame evangelicals for opposing gay-rights legislation. Blame Muslims.
It’s a well-worn pattern of finger pointing. We see it over and over. The rush to judgment – assigning blame for evil to those we oppose.
Rather than finger pointing, one Christian path forward is looking for the fingerprint of God in others.
“Your fingerprints can be seen on a million faces,” sings Audrey Assad in “For Love of You.”
Assad is a contemporary Christian singer and songwriter, who communicates in a deeply spiritual way the concept of Imago Dei – the image of God in humanity.
“You live in a million places. Your fingerprints can be seen on a million faces. There’s a trace of You in every hallelujah. Every song that I sing,” her song begins.
What if we looked for God’s fingerprints in the faces of others?
That’s a radically different way than pointing fingers.
Can we see the fingerprints of God in the faces of gays? What about Republicans or Democrats? And Muslims? The mentally ill?
We are so wired to finger pointing that we are missing the fingerprints of God.
The Christian path forward from the Pulse nightclub and the carnage in Orlando is to shift away from finger pointing to looking for God’s fingerprints.
That’s going to require a lot of personal and social reformation. We’re going to have to break the chains of political ideology and loyalty, the prejudice of cultural heritage, the inherited list of church priorities.
We’re going to need to recover a much more robust commitment to the biblical message that teaches us that we – and those we dislike – are created in the image of God.
A biblical reference point for Imago Dei is found in Genesis 1:26-28.
“Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image’ … So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
God created after his image and gave human beings responsibility for what he had created. The biblical word “dominion” is about our obligation for the created order.
Another reference point is James 3:9. Speaking of the taming of the tongue, James wrote: “With it we bless the Lord … and curse those who are made in the likeness of God.”
The moral implications of Imago Dei are profound – complicated and controversial. The moral implications are also immediately applicable.
After Orlando, here are three church-centric commitments and action steps:
First, praise God in worship and do the work of God in the public square. Let’s pray and put feet to our prayers. Faith without works is dead (James 2:14).
Second, avoid the rush to judgment – the cursing of those in God’s likeness. Let’s catch our own temptations to finger point and to man the battlements of our own position. Christians need not join the dash to damn others.
Third, seek to advance the common good. That is, look for ways to ensure the welfare of others. Let’s do the hard work of social analysis without getting paralyzed by indecision and insistence on “our way” as the only way.
No perfect solution exists to mass shootings. No quick fixes are available. No one political proposal is perfect. Compromise is core to advancing the common good in the public square.
We begin today with the challenge of finding God’s fingerprints in the faces of others.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.
Editor’s note: Two moral resources are available to help Christians make better decisions and engage constructively in society. “Standing at the Crossroads: A Study of Christian Moral Decision-Making” is available here. “Walking in the Good Way: A Christians Discipleship Study Guide” is available here.
Robert M. Parham (1953 – 2017) was the founder and executive director of Baptist Center for Ethics from 1991 to 2017. He served as executive editor of EthicsDaily.com, BCE’s website, from its launch in 2002 until 2017.