How do we respond?

According to news sources, there were 12 mass shootings between Friday and Sunday resulting in 11 deaths and 69 injuries.

What’s your reaction to that?

Is it to ask which news sources? Do you really care or is finding out which sources a way to shift the focus from something horrific to a debate about what constitutes news – something that leads no where. Which might be your whole point with going down that road. Nothing changes. Maybe you’re just fine with that. I don’t know.

Did you read those numbers and come away with a “meh” response? Maybe this kind of information is just not interesting any more. Maybe it just too common to elicit a response. Maybe you think it doesn’t affect you directly, so you aren’t worried about it.

Is your response to fire back at the information with some kind of talking points about guns and freedom and liberty and…

If your response to label me in some way? It’s much easier to discredit someone if you can label them. They aren’t a person anymore – they are an enemy, or nobody.

I’ve seen and heard all of these response. And they sadden me greatly. Because these responses are designed to remove the humanity of the situation. They are designed to focus on the issue, which is something abstract, something that can be controlled, something can put people into one of two boxes – right or wrong.

And the loss doesn’t change. 11 people lost their lives. 69 people were injured. All of their families are traumatized. Communities are suffering from grief, horror, fear, anger, and more. Those things have a ripple effect. We are easily talking about hundreds of people who are impacted by these shootings. And that’s for three days. That doesn’t count all of the other days.

If you can’t see the humanity in this situation, then I’m not sure what to say frankly. If all of these deaths and injuries are just ammunition in a ideological conflict, then I’m not sure how to communicate with you. Because really, we have two different concerns. My concern is the loss of life and the trauma that people face and the impact and effect of that trauma on hundreds of people. I’m not interested in the ideological debate. Mostly because no one ever really wins in those debates. Ever. Not a single person’s life improves from ideological debates. Not a single person’s trauma is dealt with. Not a single person. Ever.

When I read that 11 people died and 69 are injured, I’m horrified. I’m saddened. Yes, by the loss of life. But also at the unwillingness to do anything about it. Because that means more people will die. More people will be injured. And for what? Why are people’s lives not worth as much as an object? How is something a freedom and a right when it costs so many people their lives? Who is actually free?

And since I’m a theologian, the more essential question is this – what is the most Christ-like response we can have to such death and trauma? Is it to do nothing? Is it make excuses? Is it to label people? Is it shift to toxic polarization? Or is it to see the image of God in every people who is impacted? Is it to move society towards Shalom? Is it to be a peacemaker? Is it to mourn the loss of life? Is it to value human lives more than objects?

I could be wrong. I could be way off on this. But I don’t think the response to such tragedy is to ignore it or excuse it or turn to ideology or attack the messenger. I think the most Christ-like response is to grieve, mourn, and act to prevent more tragedy. It’s also recognize my own brokenness in all of this. To see how I contribute to such brokenness in society. Only in seeing that am I able to see the image of God in those who ignore, label, and shift the focus. Only in seeing my own brokenness can I hear the fear and anger and trauma of those who resist any changes – to truly see their humanity.

The most Christ-like response is to see the humanity around me – in all its forms. To hear the brokenness around me – in all its words. To feel the pain – pain of loss of life, and pain of fear.

If all we ever do is fight over guns, then we will always be fighting. There will always be some other instrument of death. But if we can see the humanity and suffering and pain and fear and anger of those traumatized and those who resist change, then there is hope that our world, our society, can be different – can be better for everyone. Until we learn that lesson though, we’ll continue with the same stories and the same defenses. We’ll have walls protecting ourselves and what we believe. And we will resist love and how vulnerable it really is. How it calls us to die to self – our beliefs, our ideas, and our desire to be right. Only in love can we effectively tackle such trauma. Only in love can we begin to see others and their humanity. Only in love can we set aside our addiction to idols, being in control, and knowing. Only in love.

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