A disclaimer: Some people might feel that it’s too soon to post what I want to express below, and I tend to agree with that sentiment. When a tragedy like the school shooting in Florida happens, it is important to honor the victims—to mourn—before jumping to conclusions and suggesting solutions. As this is the sixth shooting of this nature in 2018—and as we are only about six weeks into 2018—I find that I have to process yet another shooting by writing out my thoughts and feelings.
I share my thoughts below knowing that some may find what I am thinking inappropriate at this time. I am sorry if what I share below is offensive to anyone. For my part, a fresh call to compassionate action is rising up in me and it is nigh to impossible to muffle such a call. I hope that what I offer below is helpful in some way. -Troy Cady (February 15, 2018)
The BBC reports today: “Since 2013, there have been 291 reported school shootings in America, which averages out to about one per week.”
The last three words in that sentence should alarm each and every American. “One per week.” Read that correctly, friends. “One per week.”
Not “one per year” or even “one per month” but “one per week.”
That means that, more likely than not, there will be another shooting like this next week. That should alarm us.
And, yes: in 2018 alone that statistic still holds. The shooting in Florida yesterday makes the sixth shooting so far this year. As I write this, it is only mid-February, so in 2018 we are on course to repeat the spiraling tragedy of the previous five years with the same degree of frequency.
I fear that with each shooting our collective conscience is becoming deadened. We treat this as commonplace now—and that, most of all, should alarm us.
But maybe we are too deadened in spirit to be alarmed. This is frightening to me. Maybe we do not share enough common ground with those on the other side of the political aisle to say “enough is enough; let us address this once and for all.”
Have we widened the aisle so much that we can no longer hear each other? It is time to narrow the aisle, so we can stand together.
Last Friday, I went out to eat with some friends and on the way home we were talking about all the amazing innovations that are available to us today. I remarked, “It’s like we are living in the sci-fi movies of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The things those movies predicted are actually happening.”
Someone brought up Star Trek and said that, other than transporter technology and warp speed, we have basically the same technology they have in those programs. I wondered about that and noted to the group that we don’t have the food replicator.
But my friend pointed out that, in fact, we do: it’s possible to print a steak by manipulating pink slime through a 3D printer. Essentially, that’s what the food replicator in Star Trek is: it’s like a 3D printer.
Later that night at home, I thought: “What limit is there to what we can accomplish, if we just put our mind to it? And what can possibly prevent us from destroying ourselves with our own success?”
I realized: that is why faith in God matters to me so much. Without a moral compass we will harness whatever is available to us to destroy ourselves. We need a sense of right and wrong to govern our use of resources--otherwise our use just turns into abuse. Without a clear sense of right and wrong our reality becomes a function of power: who has it and how can we take it? Those who have power then define our reality—and those who define reality, determine our morality.
This is why I believe that political ideology alone is not sufficient to orient us. For starters, the practitioners themselves are compromised; they are beholden to political gaming and blaming. Politicians will do almost anything to preserve their power—except admit they are wrong. Even so-called “Christian” politicians are compromised. When is the last time you’ve heard a “Christian” politician say: “I’ve sinned against the people I have been called to serve and I want to put it right now.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a thing. Such an omission troubles me. After all, nobody is perfect.
We must confess our bankruptcy. We must acknowledge: the days of principled leadership are all but gone. Even when we spot what looks like “principled leadership”…if we dig a little deeper, we discover the principles of the leaders we admire are little more than foundations of shifting sand. We discover that almost everything is negotiable if it means our ideology prevails.
So, power and persuasion are the new truths in a post-truth world. Politicking has become the art of packaging one’s own truth so that as many people as possible will buy it. The mass consumption and propagation of whatever post-truth most citizens happen to believe then equates to power. Power that rests merely on popular persuasion is dangerous, debilitating and debasing.
So, I have some unsettling questions. These questions are especially for my fellow Christians but I assert that any person reading this (if you desire healing in this broken system) will have to face the same questions.
Are you willing to admit you might be wrong on this issue? What are you willing to let go of for the sake of innocent lives caught in the cross-fire of such rampant violence?
Is this a hopeless cause? Is there nothing more we can do to at least diminish the likelihood of tragedies like these? Surely we can do better.
I wonder how many guns it will take to make us feel safe? I really wonder if more guns equate to more safety? I wonder if unrestricted access to guns could be the solution? I wonder if our new American idol is made of blue steel? I wonder if we are placing our trust…in firearms and bullets? I wonder if “active shooter training” is the answer? I wonder if we are paying attention to the mental health crisis that plagues us?
This is a spiritual crisis, an existential crisis. It speaks to our collective identity. It speaks to whether we have the will to cooperate or only the resolve to remain stubborn in our perspectives. It speaks to whether our heart is strong enough to remain open and seek one another out—or to just close off in hardness and cynicism.
If we make this about power, we all lose—it doesn’t matter if you are left or right. Are we willing to suspend our political maneuvering (to engineer culture to our liking) for the sake of living together in our difference, for the sake of life without fear? What are we willing to let go of? Are we willing to listen to one another finally? Or are we only willing to offer up “prayers” that also factor into our political power-plays?
Can we really pray if we will not act? If we are really praying, God will really move us…to act in compassion. If we really pray, we will see that even the oppressor is afflicted—and we will wonder why. If we really pray, God will move us to be redemptive, not just preventive. If we really pray, we will be fighting with weapons that have no chambers—they are weapons of peace.
I wonder whether we are really praying, truth be told. I wonder sometimes if we only kneel by the bedside so we can more easily reach the pistol hidden underneath the bed. The gun is a more tangible solution, I suppose.
I wonder what it would look like for us to cling to the cross as much as we reach for our revolvers. I wonder what would happen if Jesus showed up and said, “Give me your guns now because you won’t need them later; this is about heaven on earth--the present impregnated by the future, destiny made a reality.”
Christians: we assert that we are the light, that we are a redeeming presence in the world. Take a look at your handiwork and do better without laying blame elsewhere. We will answer to our Maker for our inaction and deflection. We will answer for our smugness and callousness. We will answer for thinking we know better. We will answer for playing the same political games we despise in others. We will answer for our manipulation of truth.
We may know the truth, but trying to confine it to our political ideology will only meet with disgust by our Lord. Never forget: the Christian can only have one Constitution—it’s the cross.
It is time to stop playing games and serve. It is time to be truly redemptive. It is time to be strong in Christ’s disarming light. If you hate fake news, try this: it is time to stop praying fake prayers and let God move you in prayer to Christlike action.
This is my prayer. Like Christ on the cross, the arms of this prayer reach both left and right. Jesus pleads with us all: be reconciled.