So what are people of faith to do after the violence of Las Vegas, New York City, Sutherland Springs? What is our response to mass killings, but also daily shootings that barely catch our attention?
Certainly, people of faith need to work with others to address the violence in our culture. Some will work for more effective gun control laws. I for one just don’t understand why we would ever allow a civilian to buy an assault rifle; it’s only reason for being is to kill human beings. Some will focus on mental health issues. In most cases, tragic shootings are perpetrated by someone who has significant mental health problems. Had these mental health issues been addressed earlier in the person’s life, maybe we would have been spared one more tragedy?
I would never claim to have the remedy for the epidemic of violence in our culture. Transforming this culture will take a lot of work. However, I do worry that we are losing our sense of outrage. Because daily violence and mass shootings are so commonplace now, I sense this is slowly becoming the norm. After each of the last three tragedies, I was aware of how quickly I just got back to business. In fact, political leaders encourage us not to allow these events to change our behavior. Don’t be afraid! The show must go on!
There is certainly something to be said for not letting fear carry the day. But I wonder if in our rush to move on, we fail to take time to lament this “new normal.” What if we gathered together as a worshiping community and offered our own psalms of lament and other prayers that give voice to our grief and anger? What if we took time to simply sit with the pain of those who have lost parents, spouses, siblings and children by reading a few of their stories to make the loss more real? What if we took time to express our feelings to God and one another? If we offered all our inner turmoil to God, I wonder if we would tap into more energy for what needs to be done.
If we don’t give voice to what we are going through, we become numb and de-energized, and run the risk of falling into despair, losing any hope that things will ever get better. We accept the new normal in spite of the fact that it is so abnormal.
People of faith should always remember that the first move in difficult times is to bring our pain and confusion to God. When we do, we invite God into our struggle. And if God is with us in the struggle, we may well discover new chapters full of hope and possibility.