Members of the religious right are being heard to make statements such as “something has gone wrong in America and that we have turned our back on God…I think we have turned our back on the scripture and on God almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us. I think that’s what’s going on.”
Were I to use those words, I would be saying something quite different from what usually follows from the right. They will follow such words with a condemnation of whatever social issue they feel represents the great evil of our time. Where I agree with the statement is that I think the events of Sandy Hook, Aurora, Columbine and the numerous other mass shootings of recent years are the inevitable result of the attitudes and values that we as individuals, and we as communities, and we as a nation have embraced. Or, if not embraced, we have not challenged or offered alternative perspectives in the public discourse when these unspeakable events occur.
For starters, I think it is counterproductive to speak of the shooters in these episodes as “monsters” though their deeds are indeed monstrous. I think it is a mistake to label them “evil” though their actions certainly conform to every definition of “evil” that I know. I think it is more important to see these perpetrators as persons not much different from ourselves. Then we can ask more productive questions such as “what went wrong for them?” Or “what influences have guided my choices that I did not fall into the depths of despair that spawned their actions?”
I am given to ask, “Have our spiritual leaders and spiritual institutions failed us?” For, surely there are significant spiritual dimensions to these tragedies. Have our spiritual institutions become so caught up in institutional survival that we have neglected the care, nurture, and training of our souls? Have we sought power, influence, and prosperity at the expense of our prophetic vision? Further, have we as parishioners and congregants been unwilling to be challenged and insisted only on a message of comfort and reassurance?
More questions than answers. Who will join me in the conversation?