In the wake of the Orlando massacre, we had evangelical leaders talk about how Christians were "grieving" or the nation was "mourning" this crime. Even "weeping". Now, this is well-meaning. It's an attempt to show that Christians care about the lost–including homosexuals. And it's a way of distancing ourselves from Westboro types.
That said, the anonymous way that words like "grief" and "mourning" are thrown around cheapens the principle. I'm not confining my remarks to this particular incident.
If we're honest, I think the only people whose death we really grieve over are people we're very close to. Not mere acquaintances. Not strangers.
There's rhetorical inflation at work. To prove how caring we are, we overextend the notion of grief and mourning. But we need to reserve those words for something more personal, more intimate, than 50 strangers dying at once.
Why does the Orlando massacre get framed in terms of grief and mourning, but a plane crash killing hundreds does not?
In addition, it's only natural to feel worse about some deaths than others–even when it's strangers. I'm more saddened by the death of one 2-year-old (Lane Graves), killed by an alligator, than the Orlando shooting. I'm more saddened by the Columbine massacre than the Orlando shooting.
The world is full of tragedies. Full of atrocities. But every tragedy isn't my tragedy. I'm not heartbroken about every tragedy or atrocity. There's a difference between empathy or compassion and grief. It's one thing to be compassionate about the suffering of others, but it's something else to act as if their loss is your loss. That's just make-believe.