I think this is the verse which everyone who hopes young white men will stop killing people is recalling today:
“Therefore we do not lose heart.
Though outwardly we are wasting away,
yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day”
(2 Cor. 4:16).
During my whole life, which is comparatively long, by now, this has been a go-to verse for the many “lost causes” that go with following Jesus:
- police killing black people, and, in general, any citizen they are sworn to protect [guns and gun laws];
- atomic weapons in the hands of Trumps or Putins or ayatollahs, the absurdity of war in general;
- do gooders around the world tagged as “subversive” and tormented or murdered, lack of caring and sharing in general;
- evangelism in a post-Christian and increasingly anti-Christian era, generally because the Christians are in the service of oppression, for reasons I have yet to fathom.
You get the idea.
The news reality TV put the death of people on the screen as if they were marks on a mass shooting scorecard, comparing the last murders to the previous, zoning in on Beto O’Rourke crying while they waited for Trump’s tweet.
The Dems blame Trump’s rhetoric for encouraging El Paso (can anyone dispute that?); the White House “pushes back” and blames the “sickness” of the shooter (can anyone dispute that?). Why those two things don’t go together, I have no idea. Surely no one on the street thinks sick people are not the first to be destroyed when the leaders are terrible and fighting with each other. Families disintegrate for the very same reasons, and dead churches litter the landscape because people thought being “right” was better than being reconciled (back to 2 Corinthians).
Don’t lose heart. Act.
Our old friend, Sarah Withrow King, reposted a Facebook entry Sunday from a Philadelphia activist now in Nashville. Her friend is trying to stay in the game, even though it is discouraging to think the country will continue to handout AK47s to anyone who wants one. Here is an excerpt I think will encourage you and maybe keep you motivated to hang on to Jesus and take action:
There was a massacre in El Paso yesterday and a terrifyingly similar attack in Dayton. The El Paso shooter was a white supremacist who posted a manifesto about hating immigrants and the Dayton shooter was also a young white male.
Yesterday when I briefly saw news of a shooting before going to bed, before much was known about it or who the shooter was or the motivations, I saw a comment on the New York Times article: someone wrote, “I don’t think it’s been even a week since the last one. I stopped crying after Parkland.” Something pierced my heart, knowing that my biggest fears are coming true: more and more collective numbness to mass shootings, and likely numbness to mass terrorist attacks by white supremacists.
I remember giving myself some guidance after a major attack a couple years ago. Here’s what I wrote to myself, which I’m repeating for my own benefit and anyone’s this morning:
- Feel the enormity. Whatever that feeling is.
- Look to people who have been doing work on the ground in the community for years, to those who live and work and are organized there, for cues on action in solidarity (psych: not Democratic hopefuls or others will expect to swoop in as heroes)
- Connect to those around you – emotionally, strategically. Remember you’re not alone.
- Respond. It’ll be messy and imperfect. Say what you want to say and do what you feel you need to do. …
So repeat it in your heart, and let tears come whether that’s this morning or later or at 3AM: There was a massacre in El Paso yesterday. 20 people are dead. The shooter was a white supremacist who posted a manifesto about hating immigrants. This is real and this is my world. — Margaret Anne Ernst (Her blog)
As I am sure most of you think, making Facebook posts and blog posts have limited value in the face of daily disasters (like Greenland losing an amazing amount of ice in the most recent European heat wave!). Although the myth of the echo chamber has been widely debunked, for whatever reason people are not listening to one another, much less promoting healing and creative dialogue. I think one reason many don’t listen is probably “the medium is the message.” You don’t think I am quite real as you read this, and I agree. I am much wilder and unpredictable in person, also a lot more caring, angry, irrational, wise and weird than I am here. We need the face to face.
We must make face to face happen
We no longer live in villages, generally, and spend hours online. The El Paso shooter said he spent eight hours a day there. Face to face is hard to come by. And if you are going for it, like we are in our church (and like restorative justice people are as they upend mass incarceration — listen to On the Media’s Repairing Justice: How to Fix the Internet), then you might get tired. Love can be hard. You’re swimming against the current. The need to keep making real relationships can be discouraging.
But everyday I think something like: “I hope young white men will stop killing people,” and “I hope anxious Congolese people will not kill their doctors,” and “I hope corrupt Ukrainians will not sell out their fellow-citizens,” and “I hope Moscow Mitch will start legislating for the common good.” I can’t help it. I hope we will settle down and talk to our children and listen. I hope we will look at our own anxiety and trust God. And I hope we will strategize how to get together when we see our own neighbors. Most of all, I hope we will build a church – the true alternative to the madness, when it is not itself, mad.
Make it a go-to with me in this potentially numbing week: “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” Putting our faith in action will always be hard. But Jesus will always be with us every step of the way.