“Where will it end?” That is the question of frustration that often comes in the aftermath of destructive patterns of behavior that are often repetitive. Shock and outrage are familiar companions in these moments, and yet, as someone asked following the shootings at the Navy Yard this week, “Are we becoming accustomed to these horrific events?” I would hope the answer to these questions is “no,” but I can’t help but wonder…
The inability to agree on meaningful legislation that could have an impact, as well as our unwillingness to confront and deal redemptively and accountably with mental health issues might be seen by some as evidence of a sense of complacency in response to these terrible incidents. Please understand, I do not believe there is one simple solution that will bring these mass shootings to an end. In a free society where access cannot always be controlled and purposefully harmful intent always known, opportunities are obviously there for an individual or group to take advantage. Various entities connected to the Navy Yard shootings this week have announced reviews of their personnel and security policies and practices, vowing to do what they can to make the installations safer. They are doing the right thing by such evaluation if it is followed by meaningful change.
But where will it all end? I cannot say with certainty that I have an answer to that question. It is easy to point fingers, and easier still to expect that someone else will fix the problem. But where does that leave you and me? What is our role here? The electoral process gives us some opportunity to affect decision making and we must participate in it. Some will choose a more vocal role through involvement in groups or organizations that push forward a particular political or social perspective and that is a privilege of the freedom of expression we have as citizens of this nation. But what about the day to day experience of the great majority of Americans that perhaps have the greatest impact on everyday living? What about the way we treat others or the realistic expectations we have for relationships between ourselves and others? It appears to me that we assume less and less responsibility in these areas as we become more and more polarized by and entrenched in our own particular perspectives. Are we willing to dialogue about the things that divide us and that threaten our society and personal safety with open minds and civil tongues? We complain about the lack of substantive action and effective leadership, but what are you and I doing to have an impact in our neighborhoods, work places, and schools?
As a follower of Jesus Christ, I profess a faith that is to have an impact on the way I view the world, beginning where I live. That doesn’t mean that I can fix every problem or overcome ever act of irrational fear or anger that is meant for harm. But my view of the world must begin more intentionally right where I live and work and play, reflecting the kind of love that isn’t dependent on another’s racial, ethnic, political, or theological persuasion. The love of Christ is a gift that I am called to offer, regardless. Unless I am mistaken, that is what the cross of Christ calls us all as Christians to exemplify…sacrifice, service, forgiveness, mercy, restoration.
Where will it all end? I cannot tell you. I will, however, ultimately trust that God is at work, not in the initiation of these terrible events, but in and through people who will take seriously the claims of faith and work together to bring light to an often dark and dangerous world. I will also pray for our nations leader’s, for those who establish policies that impact our lives, for first responders and other persons who bravely answer when called, and yes, for those whose violent actions devalue human life for that is what scripture calls us to do. And I will pray for the families of those who have lost loved ones in this most recent mass shooting as well as those injured, those who waited under desks, hid in closets, and ran down stairwells and across parking lots seeking safety. Their lives have been irrevocably changed by what they have seen and heard.
John writes of the light of Christ, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Dear friends, this is indeed a time to let your light shine!