In the wake of the horrifying shooting spree that took place outside a Tucson supermarket last weekend, the airwaves have been clogged with talk that mostly centers around two things: the details of what actually happened and who we should blame.
While those are both pressing and important concerns (especially the details that help us to celebrate the lives of those who were killed or wounded), we would be remiss if we did not take some time to think about what we’ve learned since Saturday morning. As a society, we’ve got a bit of a problem when it comes to difficult and/or catastrophic events: we rarely take time to truly process, grieve, learn. We jump straight from calamity to blame to action, and rarely look back (until, of course, it is too late and our reactionary measures have helped to cause another catastrophe).
So, let’s take some time to practice together. What are we learning in the wake of the Tucson shooting?
My learnings include the following:
- Words matter. It’s not about blaming one person for an event. It’s not even about blaming an entire movement or group of people for an event. It’s about acknowledging that words have both creative and destructive power and should be used in thought-full and care-full ways (something that most all of us seem to have forgotten). If we Church folk really do believe that God’s creative power is/was exercised through Word, if we really take seriously the belief that Jesus is the Divine Word, the Logos, then we have to be more intentional with our use of language – and be willing to be held accountable when the words we choose are destructive.
- Guns still kill people. Yes, you’ve got to have someone deranged or serious or desperate or enraged enough to pull the trigger… but guns still make it a heck of a lot easier to do so. Does this mean we should ditch those 2nd amendment rights? I don’t know. But I do know that our love affair with guns is wedded to our love affair with violence. Eventually, if we truly yearn for peace, we’re going to have to start talking about that with honesty and transparency.
- Mental health care is crucial. You’d think that this would be obvious by now (what with suicides on the rise amongst both military personnel and civilians alike, depression rates climbing, etc.) and yet so many people who need help never receive it – even when their words or behavior cry out for it. In a society where mental illness is considered weakness, it is little wonder that people don’t get help… We must do better than this – and church folk can begin by talking openly about mental illness. We’ve helped to create the stigma by propagating ideas like “depression is just a lack of faith”, so now we must repent of that petty judgment and fearfulness by working for the wholeness of those with mental illness. If one is wounded, so is the whole Body.
- Good leadership requires humility. So, when we leaders make mistakes, we need to own up to them. It can be difficult and painful to do this, and sometimes we need to set boundaries as we are held accountable (for example, while some politicians are absolutely guilty of using violent rhetoric they should not be held personally accountable for the shooting in Tucson), but we DO need to own up to our errors in judgment or intention. If we don’t, we are poor leaders. And if we try to shift the blame onto others or make the situation about us instead of those who are hurt, we are abusing the power others have entrusted to us. Period.
I’m hoping that this will become a conversation of sorts and that, together, we might begin to shift the dialogue taking place towards mutual learning and relationship. So, tell me, what have YOU learned this week?