Ten months ago today from Nablus, Palestine, I wrote about heaviness in my heart. That day it was because of the destruction of a community center and the arrests of young children in the Silwan community of Jerusalem, as well as the arrest of one of my students in Nablus.
Today, my heart is again heavy, as I’m sure yours is, because of the death of 20 children and 7 adults (6 victims and the shooter) at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.
My heart is heavy because this is the third major mass shooting we’ve heard about in the US this year. My heart is heavy because the number of those killed in the mass shootings is a small number compared to the 12,000 or more people killed every year in US due to gun violence. Many of those single killings we never hear about in the news.
I am angry at those who say guns aren’t the problem, that guns don’t kill people, that people kill people. The US has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world. It may be true that not all homicides in the US involve guns, but 60% of them do. Sixty percent of the people killing people here happen to do so with guns. It may be true that other countries have a higher per capita incidence of gun violence than the US, but most (maybe all) of those countries are in the developing world, not the developed world. What does that say? I am angry that some people insist that more guns are the means to decrease violence.
I am more committed to my own pledge of nonviolence and the peace-making I hope to do with Christian Peacemaker Teams.
Today, shortly before I heard about the shooting, I was working in my garden, noticing the plants that have died back for winter but whose new springtime growth is already evident. I thought my blog post would be about the cycle of life and death, about resurrection, about how, somehow, life finds a way to push through destruction and death.
It’s a hard day to see that truth. But I will cling to it. I will cling to the belief that even as families grieve, there is a Life-force working that will help them heal, a Life-force embodied in the presence of their friends and family, a Life-force embodied by strangers praying for them. Like Fred Rogers, I will cling to the belief in the helpers in the world:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ”
I will cling to the belief that there are more helpers than evil-doers, that goodness is stronger than evil. I will cling to the belief that, with time, hope emerges from heartbreak. I will cling to the belief in the ultimate Incarnation of Good, of Justice, of Peace, the very one Christians wait for during this time of Advent. I will seek the Incarnation in the world around me. Believing that I am a part of the Body of Christ, I will seek to be one small part of the living Incarnation.