My Heart Goes Out To Newtown, But I Hope They Do Not Turn To Social Media For Help

I grew up a few towns over from Newtown, Connecticut. I have fond memories of playing sports against their schools and watching the fireworks on the Fourth of July although I have to laugh when the news calls Newtown a small town since it was big compared to mine. Since the shooting at their elementary school, which took the lives of a 20 children as well as 6 adults and the innocence of many, many more, I have been holding a small vigil in my heart and praying as have many.

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Beyond this grief, we, as a nation, are grasping for solutions to this pattern of mass shootings that we have seen an increase over the last decade. In the last 30 years, there have been over 62 mass kills and 24 of those have been in the last 7 years. (source)

After Aurora, I thought we searched for answers so quickly because we were afraid to grieve. I called for us to wait and feel before debating gun control and mental health, but time as passed, all I did was wait myself into more mass shootings. And even those who debated got nothing, so I think the immediate discussions and calls to action are justified.

However, I hope this town, state and our government do not turn to social media for solutions as I have seen the following offered as serious answers to keep tragedies like Newtown’s from reoccurring:

1. Mentally ill people should all kill themselves BEFORE shooting people instead of AFTER shooting people. I’ll be sure to let 20% of the population know that. We’ll raid people’s medicine cabinets and medical records, and for every bottle of Prozac we find, we can just line them up and hand them a gun.

2. If the media would stop reporting these tragedies, they wouldn’t happen. Because having a free press leads to mass deaths and censorship saves people? Oh wait, maybe I have my amendments mixed up.

2a. Don’t use the gunman’s name EVER. Because by not using Adam’s name (instead referring to him as an anomaly of evil), we are sure to create a society where money will be allocated to support families raising a similar child, who isn’t yet this ill. And families will happily seek help by walking into the nearest hospital and saying: Please help my evil 12-year-old. He may grow up to be like he-who-cannot-be-named.

3. If parents were allowed to discipline their children like they once were, we may have avoided a lot of the problems we have had with young people doing stupid stuff. Because all the studies linking spanking, whipping and corporal punishment to anti-social and increasingly violent behavior are science, and science has number and charts and facts, which is very, very disturbing.

4. Crazy people should be banned. From what the person wasn’t clear and how we could tell who was “crazy” I’m not sure. I guess we could just judge each other by our hair, clothing and skin color because that always goes well. Let’s see, these guys are all young, white males. Go round ‘em up, sister.

5. God doesn’t stop shootings in schools because we banned God from our school. How exactly are we keeping God from school? Hallway monitors? Or is it the separation of church and state that goes back to the founding of our nation long before school massacres were prevalent? Or are we just saying “too bad those dead kids didn’t pray harder?” What a terrible God to believe in. I guess I’ll stick with my invisible God who can go everywhere with me without a teacher forcing others to say prayers that have nothing to do with their belief system.

I wish I could say these comments were only said by people without power or prestige, but sadly, I cannot. (However, Morgan Freeman officially did not say anything about watching the news.) From neighbors to friends to elected officials, science and thoughtfulness are easily thrown aside for angry rhetoric and quickly shared Facebook images because we want to be different enough to feel safe without having to change much about what we do, think or say.

While I believe in discussion, debate and strong opinions, name-calling, soundbites and self-righteous remarks will not help the victims of the last decade of violence or keep us from having more. For Newtown and for our future, I would ask for a moment of reflection before typing or sharing an idea. We are all in this together whether we like it or not.

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God, Pain and Perspective on 9/11 and Always

Photo by Scott Haynes

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains.” – C.S. Lewis

I have seen this quote around the Internet. To me, it sounds hopeful, and the photos accompanying the sentence reflect a comfort. God appreciates our joy, gives us a little poke in the shoulder when we are trying to figure out the next right thing, but He truly shines at our most difficult moments, when He shouts: “I will take care of you. Listen to me, it will be okay. I got it.”

But words and meanings are often truncated, taken out of context and molded to fit what we want to believe rather than what the speaker or writer intended.

Here are the lines surrounding the quote:

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” – C.S. Lewis

The extra sentences changes the entire idea of God shouting — as though pain is the only way to get through to us humans. We are sick and dying and we seem to care more about the newest iPhone than children dying in another country or even next door.

We would rather be right than be happy and we would rather be comfortable than do right.  We stand deaf to our neighbor choosing mockery and degradation over conversation and debate.

While I see so much beauty in this world, through my children, sunsets, cat purrs, holding my husband’s hand, wearing sweatpants, cute shoes, and cartwheels, I am fearful of the miscalculations we as a world and a country have made.

As a child, I was taught at school and home that we are more alike than different, not to litter and to get good grades so I could do anything I wanted to do.

As a grownup, I learned that people are out to kill other people because of how they look or pray or love, the Earth is dying and good grades don’t provide childcare or time.

I know that my childhood view was simple and idealistic, but I miss it. The answers today are so complex and so variable that they don’t even seem like answers. They are ideas and impossibilities. They arouse futility and hopelessness.

However, when C.S. Lewis’ book, The Problem of Pain, is read in its entirety, I am wrong in my assessment of those three lines from it. I find the anniversary of 9/11 to have so much shouting and so little listening within the pain that I cannot see where C.S. Lewis is going. He is actually arguing that allowing pain is a part of loving, and if God loves us, He must allow pain. God uses the pain to have or get us trust Him more and our finite selves less.

Pain and change and discomfort and fear have always been and will always be. Maybe our world is not so different from 12 years ago or 1200 years ago. At least not on the inside, where the pain and the pleasure and the shouting is. Maybe we haven’t changed much at all because of 9/11.

But then again, we can get stuck in the pain and forget to step back et again. We cannot ignore the rest of the story of what God and our hearts tell us to do because pain happens. We cannot only endure pain in the hope of perfecting love. We must also love. Perhaps, we must first love or think love is possible in this world. When we hold each other’s hand and remember that we are all suffering and loving and hoping and changing, in the United States, in every country, in every heart, we are truly free and living.

The problems of today are large and looming, and if pain is inevitable, why bother. Or for the believers, if pain brings us to God, why remove suffering? But love is not just about pain, nor is life. Life is bigger than one book or idea on God or self-righteous anger or prideful faith or love or loss.

Whatever we believe, we must see each of us as more than our pain if we are to live.  And if we live, truly live, we can make this world a better place on the anniversary of 9/11 and always.

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