In the 5 days following the shooting in Tucson, AZ I lead our Sunday morning Bible Study and our Shalom Group discussions, focusing each on the events and our feelings, perspective and responses to the tragedy. The emotions ranged from sadness and grief for those killed or injured to anger at the gunman and the media response and coverage afterward. I would say this is pretty akin with the rest of the country.
There are two points to our discussions that I want to share with you. In our discussions, I was disheartened to hear someone say that when I preach, I’m preaching to the choir and really the people outside of the walls are the ones that need the message. Because what happened is so violent and tragic, it is tempting to distance ourselves from this and say that this is something we’re not a part of, have no responsibility for, or can do anything about. I disagree. As people of faith, followers of Christ, we have a responsibility to step into the conversation and bring a message of light and life. In the Holden Evening Prayer on Thursdays, there is a call and response sentence that goes, “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” There is darkness in the world and we are called to be light. When tragedies like Arizona occur, it is our responsibility to examine our own actions, the places of intersection with those we are trying to live well among, those who enter our path and become our neighbor regardless of place, race or style. Often, bringing light means to first take responsibility for the mistakes we have made, the hurt we have inflicted and the sorrow we have caused. And, it means feeling the grace in the opportunity to fall and get up and fall and get up again on the journey to follow the way of Jesus.
The second point from our discussion that I want to highlight is this: what or, more pointedly, where was the Christian response to the shooting? The only coverage of a response that I or anyone in our Shalom group heard was discussion of whether or not the Westboro Group would protest some of the funerals that were taking place. I am disappointed that our ELCA Presiding Bishop Hanson or any of his colleagues from other denominations didn’t step into the darkness and make a statement. Our lack of voice does nothing to alleviate the impressions of people that I talk with who have become disillusioned with the church. It gives no counter to the impression that Christianity is irrelevant and all Christians are judgmental and absorbed with our buildings and Sunday morning worship only.
So, what does a Christian response look like? I’m sure that neither I nor any of my colleagues preach for the words to reverberate off the 4 walls of the church sanctuary and to stay there. We preach praying that the Holy Spirit will take the message into the listener’s heart and mind and then we are sent out to be Christ’s hands, feet and voice in the world. Your claim, “I am a Christian. Living out my faith is the most important thing in my life.” will open avenues of conversation you didn’t know existed and show others that Christians are compassionate, thoughtful people seeking the grace and mercy of God and that we are dependent on the love we learn from one another. Let us go out into the world with good courage to proclaim light in the darkness.