Life is strange sometimes, very strange, as I went to bed last night I was processing two pieces of news, the first being the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, the other the illness of a close family member, these two made for a sleepless night, partly broken by the rising of memories mixed with self-doubt and all those things that seem much bigger and nastier at 2am!
Uvalde, goodness what to say, the Robb Elementary School becomes the latest in what is now a long list of shootings in schools in the U.S.A., and the second mass shooting in ten days, the other being in a grocery store in New York. There have already been twenty seven school shootings this year alone. Young school children routinely rehearse what to do if a gunman enters their classroom! It is hard to imagine the stress levels that young children and their teachers must endure with the constant low level anxiety that a shooting might be possible without warning at any time! The BBC reports:
Politicians recognise this a problem almost unique to America, where guns have overtaken car crashes as the leading cause of death for children and teenagers. But it’s a problem that politics seem incapable of solving. Deeply entrenched views on gun control are not changed in response to events like the tragedy in Uvalde.
“Why do we keep letting this happen?” asked President Biden. “Why are we willing to live with this carnage?”
But there is no sign that Democrats will get any closer to passing tighter gun control legislation. Some Republicans are already accusing them of using this latest school shooting to cynically further their own political objectives.
Once again there are calls for gun control, and once again the right to bear arms is being defended, I must admit that the latter leaves me scratching my head, there have even been calls to equip teachers with guns so they can protect their classes! The opposing voices are quite simply polarised:
Speaking on the floor of the US Senate in Washington DC on Tuesday, Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy begged his colleagues to pass gun control legislation.
“These kids weren’t unlucky,” he said. “This only happens in this country. Nowhere else, nowhere else do little kids go to school thinking that they might be shot that day.”
But Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican, rejected the calls for gun control. He said restricting the rights of “law-abiding citizens… doesn’t work. It’s not effective. It doesn’t prevent crime.”
I am processing how I feel about all of this, my two youngest children went to Elementary School in Texas, the older ones to Junior High and High School, and while it was a long time ago it brings it close, though I recognise that many things about the culture of Texas bemused me, the land of the free didn’t seem very free at all, fear governed the lives of many, sexism and racism were always just below the surface, and I remember being laughed at when I spoke against the death penalty. Maybe as a foreigner, divided by a common language, I have no right to make comment, but I know my neighbours all had guns, and that one particular incident brought that home when a neighbour accosted ( and that is putting it mildly) my eldest son, and rather than apologising, he said we should think ourselves lucky because if he’d been sober he’d have reached for his gun and shot him! At the time we were too shocked to report him to the Police, though I suspect his right to defend his property may have won out!
That said from here I can only watch and pray, which feels useless, and yet I know that prayer is not a mere sentiment, but a heart-cry for justice, and a deep lament that yet more lives have been lost. The statistics surrounding guns in America as opposed to the rest of the world are sobering, and the demonising of the shooters, so often young and troubled, is yet again a part of the defence, the lack of recognition that the U.S.A. is addicted to guns, which creates a cycle of fear seems only to perpetuate itself! It must be noted that White Fragility has a big part to play in this debate!
This news is being taken in against a background of the continuing war in Ukraine, but not only Ukraine, in Palestine, and Syria, people are living amongst the ruins of years of warfare. In Afghanistan the Taliban are exerting an ever more oppressive regime for women and girls, the world is scrabbling for oil, while here and elsewhere the cost of living is spiralling, and the behaviour of politicians including our Prime Minister beggars belief, as they partied while the country was in lockdown!
Here in Sheffield many are heading out to protest the presence of Franklin Graham, who brings his Festival of Hate ( he calls it hope) to Sheffield Arena, I have chosen to lead online prayers and to preach love instead.
So where is God in this? I hope we find Them in the grief filled cries of the parents of Uvalde, and any who mourn with them, in the ware torn countries walking among the devastated, the weary and the wounded, in the oppressed minorities, be that because of gender, race, sexuality, poverty , mental health, disability,… the list could go on and on. I hope we find Them in the calls for justice, the outspoken activist, and in the quiet of the intercessors prayer cell, in the raging and the weeping and the disbelief which seems overwhelming when we dare to turn on the news and look it full in the face.
I hope, that because God is God, that They can draw close to every overwhelmed person, be present in every shattered community, and walk with them bearing the weight of the yoke they bear, and leading them from trauma into the unforced rhythms of grace, for many that will be a long road.
I hope because God is God, that They will stir up the complacent, and breathe life into the stagnant, and blow the wind of the Spirit through all of our foibles and fears. That They will support the activist, and bring to earth a peace that only They can bring. But, I am also aware that we are called to walk with Them, to be salt and light, bringing out the God colours and God flavours in this troubled world, to act where we can, to look for signs of the heavenly kingdom breaking through, to see where They (God) are working and to join in.
I know I cannot be passive in this, but I also need to know how, when and where to act, so I look to the still place withing, where Christ speaks peace over my jumbled thoughts and feelings, and wait for the call, follow me!