Senseless - Monday Musing, May 30, 2022
Senseless. Unreasonable and unnecessary acts of violence that defy meaning are said to be senseless. Two Sundays ago, I lit our peace candle in worship highlighting the senseless shooting in Buffalo, NY. This past week, the carnage of the mass shooting at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX has dominated the news. When will something be done about the senseless, sickening reality of America’s gun violence epidemic?
The response following every mass shooting is predictable - there are those who express “thoughts and prayers” for the victims, blaming the individual who caused the event; those with justifiable anger who cry for “policy and change,” demanding action to address the problem of systemic violence in our nation; nothing gets done, life goes back to “normal;” and then there is another senseless shooting. Rinse and repeat. Lines are drawn, sides are taken. “Now is not the time to talk about the problem, people are grieving - don’t politicize this horrific situation now” is condescendingly said by some. Shouts of “When can we talk about this because mass shootings keep happening nearly every day; if not now, when?” is the beckoning response. The immortal refrain yelled by anchorman Howard Beale in the 1976 film Network comes to mind: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
Thoughts and prayers, or policy and change? These predictable responses give the impression that it’s either one OR the other. This dichotomy further divides a nation continually mired by inaction. One would think that following the Columbine, CO mass shooting in 1999, our country would have realized then that we have a problem. Yes, some steps have been taken - sporadically restricting gun access here, expanding mental health services there, and increasing security measures at schools in many places, but there has not been a universal, bipartisan effort to get at the root causes of the epidemic problem of mass shootings in our country. Even the atrociousness of the Sandy Hook, CT shooting in 2012 did not shock the nation’s conscious enough to stir us to action. Ten years and countless mass murders later and nothing has changed! What can we do to put an end to these senseless killings? Theologian Miroslav Volf has said, “There is something deeply hypocritical about praying for a problem you are unwilling to resolve.”
As a community of faith, our hearts break for the grief-stricken families, and it is natural for us to express our thoughts and prayers for those facing hardships. But our efforts should not stop there, throwing up our hands saying, “You’re on your own now.” Our sacred scriptures remind us of Jesus’ words: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matt 25:40). We should express our thoughts and prayers to those who grieve AND demand policy and change to prevent further violence. Such actions should not be divisive if they seek common ground to build people up, and not expressed with superiority to forge contentious politics.
Compassion may be an elusive goal in our world today, but our faith teaches us to build bridges where the expanse appears wide. On this Memorial Day when we remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms that we enjoy as a country, let us also pause to reflect on the senseless violence that cripples our nation today. Let us engage our faith, modeling love, caring, and advocacy for those in need. See you in church!