Sunday morning, November 5, 2017, started out like any other Sunday in America. People rose, with an extra hour of sleep, and started about their day. I was putting the finishing touches on my sermon based on Matthew 23 where Jesus calls out religious leaders as heretics. The sermon went well, and I went about the rest of my day. My wife Nicky and I were attending a wedding expo, promoting my Wedding Officiant business, when I saw the news of another mass shooting this one in a church in the small Texas town of Sutherland Springs.
I am not sure how to respond to these shooting any longer I guess I have just adjusted to the fact that this is going to be normal in America where we love Jesus, and we love guns. I was slow to post anything in social media because of the usual backlash and that came soon enough. Although I agree that we need to send our “thoughts and prayers” when things like this happen, I also agree that faith without works is a dead faith and we have to do something because this is just not normal.
Of course, the first instinct we have is to place the blame somewhere. Of course, the bulk of the responsibility is with the shooter but what do we know about him and how did he get here he was not born wanting to do this so something must have happened. The early news reports say he received a bad conduct discharge, but that does not tell the whole story. Keep in mind one can get a bad conduct discharge for bouncing too many checks.
On the Monday following the incident the President of the United States held a press conference in Japan, he stated his belief that this is a mental health issue. I would agree with him that it is, in fact, a mental health issue but it is also a gun legislation issue and we need to work on both of those.
But who is to blame, quite simply we all are. Yes, that’s right, all of us are to blame.
Shortly after another mass shooting, this one at Virginia Tech, I was sent by my denomination, the Orthodox Church at the time, to Virginia Tech to work with students and faculty in the aftermath of the shooting. In the center of the campus was a makeshift memorial with candles and the names of each of the victims of the shooting including the shooter himself. There was also a saying attached to the memorial, “33 are gone because one was lost.” They included the killer in the count of the dead not to excuse him or forgive his actions but to acknowledge that somehow he was lost and it led to this.
Mental health is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. We have fewer and fewer beds available, long or short term, then we have in the past, and the situation is not going to get better. Sure, one needs to seek help to get it, but somewhere along the line someone must have noticed something and did nothing. Yes, we are all to blame.
Recently I attended a class to review and enhance my skills in the delivery of Critical Incident Stress Management and one segment of the course was about suicide and how crucial it is that if you notice the signs, and we should all know what those are, then we need to act and act quickly even if we are not sure. But the critical part of that is that we own the person until help arrives. We cannot leave their side or let them out of our sight until that help comes. Yes, we are all to blame.
In my sermon yesterday I talked about how Jesus called out some of the religious leaders as heretics, and I meditated on that around the idea that what if I was the heretic he was calling out? Whether we like to think about it or not, we all live together in society, and it is up to us to direct that society we all have a part to play in it and it is time to start playing the role.
I know many responsible gun owners, and I know deep in their hearts they want to see sensible gun legislation. I do not understand why someone needs to own a gun that can fire automatic or semi-automatic you only need one bullet to take down an animal you might be hunting. I do not understand why someone needs a high capacity magazine, a bump stock, or armor piercing bullets. I do not know why someone, other than law enforcement, needs a ballistics vest; apparently, the shooter was wearing one. But any sensible legislation has been stopped by the NRA, and other gun lobbies and Congress seem paralyzed and unable to do anything.
When folks on the left start screaming and banging on about the evil gun owners and blaming all gun owners, it only galvanizes them, and they dig in. And when folks on the right start screaming and banging on about liberal wanting to take away their guns in just galvanizes them and they dig their heels in and where does that leave us, with another mass shooting.
I do not believe talking about gun control after a mass shooting politicizes a tragedy any more than talking about extreme vetting after a terrorist attack politicizes that tragedy and saying so only deflects the responsibility that we have to take control of the situation, learn from it, and pass sensible legislation that will maybe prevent the same thing from happening in the future. This is not a right or a left thing and it’s not a liberal or conservative thing, it’s a human thing. We have to do something!
I do not want to sound like an anti-gun nut, I am not, but we need to do something I cannot preside over another vigil or a memorial for the victims of mass shootings.
27, or maybe more, are gone because one was lost and yes, we are all to blame.