Another horrific school shooting. This time in Texas. And right before graduation. How frighteningly tragic can it get? Students, on the verge of graduation, just about ready for summer break, terrorized, wounded, even killed. Again. And we still haven’t figured out what to do.
While answers are hard to come by, I also wonder how hard we have really tried. We get a bit numb after a while, almost as if we are frozen. We get tied up in the political and partisan debate, debate that distracts us from the need to do some things – maybe some tough things – in order to protect our children. And most tragically, perhaps, we are desensitized to the violence. We begin to see this as the norm. It’s “normal” for kids to be shot at school!
There are limits, of course, to what we can do. After all, we live in a sinful world, and I can’t change that. There will always be hatred and violence; there will always be those who seek to hurt. Karl Marx, for example, developed Marxism (Communism) with the belief that changing the system will bring new outcomes. He didn’t take sin into account! No matter how perfect the system, there will always be those who will take advantage of it, for their own benefit. So, perfect answers won’t be found. We live in an imperfect, even broken, world.
Now I need to be careful here. That is also the line of those who want to do nothing. It’s people, they say, not the instruments of death that are the problem. And so some would advocate going the other way – more guns (arming teachers) is the solution!
Really? Throw more gasoline on the fire?
Look, I understand hunting and hunters, and their desire to engage in their sport, and I support that. I used to live in the UP of Michigan, where hunting is a way of life, even more than in Wisconsin. Deer hunting season begins on November 15, and if it’s a week day, most school systems shut down. They called it, “UP Holiday.”
But I have never seen a hunter head to the woods armed with an AK-47, or a Uzi. So why are those guns out there, easily available?
And I know, killing can occur with many weapons – a knife or a hammer, for example. But knives and hammers have other uses. Guns don’t. They are designed for one purpose – for killing.
Politics aside, it is way past time to do something. The absolute, obstinate “we won’t touch guns at all” is not working, and it is not serving our children.
So, what do we do? The story out of Texas (at least at the moment – the story may not be fully out yet) is that the guns used were owned legally. Are there ways to prevent, or at least reduce, the use of guns by people who should not have access to them?
I’ve already read some suggestions that might have prevented this from happening. Maybe they would have worked. Maybe not. But even if solutions don’t prevent all violence, if they even prevent one shooting, isn’t that worth it? And wouldn’t that mean the world to the one…or ten…whose lives might have been lost, but now are not?
But remember – we are numb and we are desensitized. We begin to believe that there is not much you or I can really do. We are frozen, going nowhere quickly!
And this is such a political issue, with heavy hitters on all sides, hard to imagine anything happening here.
But the Texas shooting didn’t just happen right before graduation. It also happened right before Pentecost. Tomorrow (May 20th), is Pentecost. We celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift that filled the disciples, and even changed Peter – you remember Peter, the ultimate “chicken,” the one who in fear denied that he knew Jesus – and did that three times. But in the embrace of the Holy Spirit, Peter, the “chicken,” stood up in front of the crowds in Jerusalem a mere 52 days later, and proclaimed the good news of Jesus. Boldly and publicly.
The Holy Spirit did the unimaginable – transformed the followers of Jesus from a group of frightened, clueless bumblers into a group that had few answers, but also had the willingness to trust the Spirit’s guidance.
Two thousand years later, embraced by the same Spirit, we gather for worship and for service, to proclaim good news and make a difference in our world. And it all started on that first Pentecost.
So consider this. We face challenges, and we have significant conflict over how to fix what’s wrong. This is political explosion waiting to happen. And so we duck, we hope, we even pray. But we don’t do anything.
Moreover, I have my ideas, but I also know my limitations. I don’t have all insight and wisdom. I know where we need to go, I’m just not fully certain how we will get there.
But I also know we have the presence of the Holy Spirit. Maybe it’s time we, as faithful Christians, insist that the conversation begin. Maybe we need to stand up to those who insist that nothing can change, and nothing should change. Maybe we also insist that we don’t have to have our way completely, and that we can even see that others may have ideas and insights worth considering. Or to put it another way, maybe, in the embrace of the Holy Spirit, we can put our children first, and be bold.
Can’t – and won’t – happen, some say. But then again, no one saw Pentecost happening either.
I once saw a cartoon in which one character said, “I’d like to ask God why he allows poverty, hunger and injustice.” The other asked, “Why don’t you?”
“I’m afraid he might ask me the same thing!”
Time for us to stop being afraid of the question. Time to pray for the strength and presence of the Holy Spirit. Even here, far from Texas. To be renewed by the Spirit. To hear God calling us to make a difference – and to act.
Because I don’t want your daughter (or son) – or mine – to be next!