There is a twice-weekly paper in Uvalde. Its entire front page was black today, except for a date–May 24, 2022– in bold white print just above the fold. It is the physical embodiment of stunned silence.
That’s what each community feels when one of these shootings happens to them. Not shocked– we are all too aware that these shootings happen, and with frequency, to pretend to be shocked– communities are stunned because no one ever thinks it will happen in their town/neighborhood/school.
I have chosen silence over the last few days because I ran out of good platitudes a long time ago. Of course, our prayers are with the families of Uvalde. We pray for God’s comfort in their grief and healing for their trauma. But if those are the only prayers, if they are contained neatly in moments of silence and understanding nods; if they end when the shock wears off, then they are just empty wind.
God does not desire prayers alone, but contrite hearts and change lives. Again and again, the prophets remind us that a heart devoted to God leads to care for the poor and vulnerable; especially widows and children, and immigrants. The prophets also warn us what happens to peoples who claim the name of God but turn away from the commands for compassion and justice.
So, I am sorry, I have given up wasting words offering wafer-thin sympathy. We as individuals may be moved by these moments, our single hearts may go out to these grieving families. But it is clear that we as a people do not care. It has been 10 years since Sandyhook; more than 20 since Columbine. Nothing has changed because we do not care enough to change it.
The only substantial changes to gun legislation in the last two decades have been to make weapons more widely available. No, gun legislation alone will not solve the problem. Is this a mental health issue, yes; we have not improved care or access to psychiatric services in two decades. Is this a problem with parents, yes; be we have not invested in systems and resources to strengthen families and protect children in two decades. Is the problem of, not just mass shootings, but gun violence in general, complicated, yes. But to even begin finding a solution we must, at our core, care more about the life and safety of other people than we do about our own comfort and sense of security.
Our culture does not encourage such empathy and selflessness. To believe that we can call ourselves a Christian nation without it is a delusion. This is why I no longer comment on these tragedies. I am not interested in enabling fantasy. I do not have a pastor’s soothing aphorisms. I have only the prophet’s anger…and weariness.
I wish no other mother or father ever had to weep over a child lost to gun violence. I pray that God will redeem us and show us the path to life and happiness. Yet I know that such a path will come with repentance. With changed hearts leading to changed actions and changed systems. God can do it, but it will be done through us and so long as we are too stiffnecked to look for another way nothing is going to change. There will be another Buffalo and another Uvalde until our hard hearts are so broken we are willing to let God do something new with them.
I know that does not sound like a word of hope. That’s why I don’t comment anymore. But my anger is not hopeless. I know that God has changed hearts before. God has led stiffnecked people to new life before. I believe that we as people and as a people are nowhere near powerful enough to stand in the way of God’s mercy and justice forever. My silence is only partly resignation. It is also the silence of patiently longing for God’s will to finally be done.