Words can not express how I sad, outraged, and fearful I feel in the wake of yesterdays' shooting. As a father of two children of the ages of those killed this really hit home, but I would like to think about how do we minister to our neighbors in times such as these. Lots of people will have lots of questions. Lots of us will be providing answers that may make ourselves feel good, but may or may not be helpful to others. I would like to just quickly go through some of the questions I have seen in media, social networking and conversations with friends.
Where was God?
question that always comes from these events. How can a good God let
this happen? Some will answer that God is not really there, others
(even people of faith sometimes) will say that God was powerless and
could not be there. Others will answer that God was in the midst of the
suffering (my default response as a Christian) and still others will
say God was in the actions of those who executed the countless acts of
self sacrificing love to protect and comfort those involved. As our
society has fragmented, how people answer these questions may depend as
much on what group they are in as it does on personal reflection.
Those in the secular media will err on the "God was not there" side,
those of us in the Church will find stories of God's presence in many
of the details as they come out over the next few days. The real point
for those of us who want to be there for others is, what are the real
ideas and emotions behind these responses? Those who speak of God not
there, may have something deeper that they are trying to grasp. Those
of us who affirm God's presence may be wanting to make sure that our
friends and neighbors have hope to meet uncertainty of living in this
mixed up world. So my prayer will be for the Spirit to lead me and all
those who care the wisdom to listen through the conversation to the
Do we do politics?
seems to be the most divisive question. The default answer that many
people come up first is no. It is not the time. President Obama said
as much in his response yesterday. Lots of posts on my Facebook
news-feed said something similar. The emotions are too raw, people
need time to grieve, it will upset those who are have been victimized
by this shooting are some of the default answers. There is some truth
in this but not the whole truth. I would encourage those of us who
minister to listen to those on the other side. There will be a
significant portion people who hear behind this response a lack of
resolve to make the necessary changes to help avoid these types of
events in the future. People who want to make sure that we don't
change the wrong things, or change too much, will also fear that
emotions will lead people to make choices that will have unintended
consequences down the road. There will be people on all sides of the
spectrum who will say now is precisely the time to use political
processes to either make changes or guard cherished values. Please
understand these people care just as much about those who suffer tragedy
as those who need time to mourn or process do. It is just another way
that people cope with the horror. So my prayer will be for the Spirit
to lead me to listen to those who have a different response than I do,
take it in, and think about it seriously.
How do we tell our children?
am an advocate of limiting children's access to the media. We do not
leave the cable news on in our home. Images have power, and have been
shown in neurological studies to rewire the brain. So we need to be
careful. I am also an advocate of telling the truth to our children
in ways that they can handle. This means being upfront that people,
and yes children died. I am not a big believer in using euphemisms to
talk about death to children. I think that talking around death only
confuses children and merely communicates our our anxieties. Young
children can basically only think concretely, but are masters at reading
emotions. This does not mean you need to tell them every detail, but
you should find a way to communicate the essentials. It is also
important to communicate your love and your willingness to be there for
them. Kids need stability especially when they hear about tragedy.
When they go to school on Monday the other children will be talking
about this. So my prayer is for the Spirit to help me communicate to my
children the tragedy in the most healthy way and to let them know how
much I love them.
I know there may be other things on
people's minds, but these were the three that stood out to me. I am
sure there is much more to say and to listen to.
Keep the Faith,