Last Sunday was the Advent Sunday of Love. In the aftermath of the tragic deaths in Newtown, Connecticut, it was an emotional topic. The most frequent question people seem to ask is “Why?” Why did one individual take so many innocent lives? Why did God allow this to happen? Why now, in this place, with these people? In every tragedy, my experience is that “why” is the least useful question. Perhaps it is because of the reading in the apocrypha, in the persistent “why” questioning between the prophet Ezra and the angel Uriel (2 Esdras 4:10-11); “He said to me, ‘You cannot understand the things with which you have grown up; how then can your mind comprehend the way of the Most High? And how can one who is already worn out by the corrupt world understand incorruption?” We ask for spiritual answers to material problems and they are in two different planes of understanding.
There are a number of troubling questions I feel are raised when I think of this situation which may be worth asking.
What kind of world have we created? Taking responsibility for our actions and inactions; our thoughts and appetites; our priorities and choices; we have created the world in which everything we dislike is now unfolding. To change the world and create anew, we must change our beliefs, our intentions and ultimately our choices and actions.
How can we be so outraged and grieving over these 26 lives lost to senseless violence and yet be so numb to the 1,570 children who died this year from abuse at the hands of unskillful parents or caregivers, a number more who died after being struck by stray bullets from gang related shootings and guns at home? These children die, not in a group but quietly, one by one in cities and rural areas across the nation. Who grieves them and how do we address their deaths?
Would the media give the same attention and would the nation give the same outpouring of compassion if the shooter and victims had been minorities in an urban setting rather than whites in a quiet, small town? How often do we sigh and turn away from the news of another night of violence in an urban neighborhood where decent people struggle to make a life without a lot of income? Who grieves their losses and the disruption of their home and sense of safety?
How easy is it to scapegoat people with mental illness and cognitive disorders like ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) when the solution we want to offer is isolation? Could we consider that the vast majority of individuals with these conditions suffer but pose no threat of violence to the community but then can we still consider the lack of resources, services and options available to the individuals and families to support the potential within each person?
How can we equate guns with safety; violence with establishing peace; and benign neglect with positive action? The conditions that led the founders of our nation to guarantee a right to bear arms did not contemplate automatic weapons. What fear is it within our consciousness that continues to feed a need for more weapons? How do we shift our conditioning and training of our male children away from the need to show physical strength and dominance as a part of self-esteem?
Without being overly simplistic, I believe the response to all these issues is to ask, “How can we love more?” Can we have compassion for the victims and the perpetrators? Could love alleviate the need for guns? Could love teach better parenting, allocate more resources for those in distress, instill self-esteem in our struggling youth and provide a way to resolve conflict without violence? Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
We look with love and compassion upon all the pain and wounds in our world and yet, we know there is a wholeness seeking expression. As we continue our way through this Advent, as we come together on Saturday, December 22nd to Birth a New Consciousness, perhaps it is time we give love a try and give peace a chance. I can only be responsible for my thoughts, my voice, and my actions.