Sunday, July 22, 2012

How in the world are we to respond to the Aurora shootings?

In my role as a hospital chaplain, as well as with my friends, I had a ton of conversations about what this tragedy means and how it has impacted all of us.  The media coverage has been a deluge.   

There have been several categories of responses in the media:

1. With better gun control, this wouldn't have happened

2. With better mental health care, this wouldn't have happened

3. There has got to be a reason for something this horrific, so maybe let's look for a supernatural cause.  
     This has got to be the most painful thing yet.  I stumbled across this blog post from Tony Jones,

 whom I respect immensely, and felt compelled to respond.  If you scroll down long enough, you will see my comment, but here is the text of it:

Tony, thank you for this post. As a chaplain at a hospital in Denver I spent about 10 hours today talking with patients, their families, and staff about this tragedy in and among the myriad of other tragedies that happen at a trauma center. I have no doubt that evil exists in the world and that evil was behind this act (but I feel like personifying evil and blaming it on Satan is a convenient excuse that exempts us from looking at our sin and how our own actions perpetuate evil), but more so, blaming it on Satan is an attempt to explain something that is completely unexplainable. But it is a damn good thing that the grace of God is also completely unexplainable. This city is my home, these people are my people, and what I hear coming up from my community is love. Love in response to unspeakable tragedy, not just for the victims but the shooter and his family as well. THAT is where God is and what God is doing in Colorado. Those who are blaming the shooting on Satan are not here and are not experiencing what we are. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

The fact of the matter is that this event is horrifying and there is simply not an answer for why it occurred. Someone who has made up their mind to do something such as this, there is no stopping them.  In my opinion, no amount of gun control or mental health intervention could have prevented this specific situation. However, this event is an important realization for us as a nation.  

But how then shall we live?  As a person who identifies as part of a specific Christian community and as a member of the greater Body of Christ, I am challenging us to respond in love.  To respond with care and concern for ALL of our neighbors in addition to those who are personally impacted by this horrifying tragedy.  This is not the time for asking why or how, this is a time to be together in love and to FEEL.  As a Christian person, I hope to bear witness to the real and painful things in the world, to dwell within them, but also to proclaim the promise of Grace and light in God.  

On friday evening my church community House for All Sinners and Saints gathered for Beer and Hymns in the basement of a local bar.  We sang together and sat with each other in the midst of pain and when nothing seems to make sense, we sang praises to God, for that is what we do when there seems to be nothing else to do.  At the end of our evening, just after singing How Great Thou Art which is our community's custom for each Beer and Hymns, we sang the Holden Evening Prayer liturgy together as a vigil for all those impacted by the shootings in Aurora. I had the honor of being cantor for my community that night, and as we lifted up our songs and prayers to God as incense, it felt like we reclaimed just a tiny little bit of what is good and right in the world.  Amen.  

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