Well, here I am. The world didn't end today. Perhaps, if the Mayans were so smart, they might still be around to see the fallacy of their prediction . . .
Nevertheless, as I listened to 26 bells chime this morning in memory of the Sandy Hook shooting victims, it occurs to me that a bit of the world did end a week ago for the families and friends of these children and teachers. And not just for those who knew them. We have been a nation obsessed with this tragedy for the past seven days. While we have experienced and mourned other equally senseless mass shootings over the past few years, I don't think we have reacted with this intensity to anything since the Oklahoma City bombing where, again, the senseless loss of lives was compounded because the innocent victims were children.
Then comes the onslaught of folks trying to make sense of the senseless.
- Where was God?
- Why did we push God out of our schools?
- Too many guns
- Not enough guns
- Disarm the people
- Arm the teachers
- Help the mentally ill
- Lock up the mentally ill
Sorry, my friends. You can't make sense of the senseless. You can't force God onto people and into schools. You can't create non-violence through violence. As for the mentally ill, we can't sweep them under the rug, or force them to take their meds.
God has never left us, and no one has ever taken away my freedom, or yours, to pray in or out of school. I'm just old enough (and started school in the Bible-belt South) to remember my teacher reading a short Bible story (with no commentary) at the start of the school day, and students taking turns saying a prayer for our food before we went to lunch. I didn't find it particularly meaningful then, and I doubt that God was particularly "honored" by our efforts. When it disappeared, I hardly noticed, yet I continued to communicate with God throughout my school day, shared my faith experiences, and felt God's presence with me. By the time I was in high school, we had moved out of the Bible-belt, and some of my most significant spiritual experiences involved being able to have an open an honest discourse with my favorite teacher on matters of faith. Because I took several English classes with this woman, some of my writing for her involved personal position papers and analysis of writing in which I was never forced to separate my faith from my intellectual inquiry. Yep, God was in my school. And I'm sure in many others. And hanging copies of the Ten Commandments up in the school, or starting each day with a knee-jerk prayer, would have enhanced none of those experiences.
And while we are considering God's presence or lack thereof in our midst, let's recall Jesus - often referred to as one of the greatest teachers. Imagine with me for a moment that Jesus was teaching at Sandy Hook. Now, imagine Jesus being trained to carry an assault rifle or even smaller firearm to "protect" the children in his class in the event of a similar tragedy. Can't quite picture it, can you? What I can picture is Jesus hiding those children in a bathroom and telling them to wait for "the good guys." And I can picture Jesus throwing himself in front of a group of children to take the bullets intended for them. And I can picture Jesus telling his students that he loved them. Hmm. Guess Jesus was at Sandy Hook, after all. But he sure wasn't protecting with a firearm. Please don't ask me to do that, either.
We assume that the killer was mentally ill, because we simply can't make sense of anyone in their right mind doing what he did. It may be that he was just evil, impulsive, or otherwise damaged. Regardless, there will always be evil in the world. There will always be impulsive and damaged individuals who hurt innocent people. We can't "fix" that. As fallible humans, all we can do is our best to protect our families, the innocent, the elderly, the physically and mentally ill, and then, do our best to pick up the pieces and comfort those who are hurting when evil momentarily wins. If we do this, then evil may win a battle, but Love will win the war. Love must always win. Just ask the Mayans.