Is There No Way Beyond This?

Thursday, May 25, 2022

From Michael Anthony Howard, Minister of Faith in Action,
Living Water Association, Ohio North East, UCC

Tags: Streams of Connection | From Our Association Ministers | Faith in Action

I love the Church. I am so proud of the work of our congregations. The span of our gifts is breathtaking. I often catch myself fantasizing about what we could do if we found a way to weave our gifts together. There are moments, however, when our unwillingness to collaborate makes the challenges of the world even more gut-wrenching. Just when the world needs the Church the most, the polarization of America’s partisan politics paralyzes us.

At least 21 people were murdered by a teenager this Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas, and at least 19 were children. This was barely 10 days after a racist massacre that left 10 dead in Buffalo, New York. 

Last night, I held my daughter extra close as I tried to help her fall asleep. She asked me what was wrong, and all I could say was, “I’m so proud of you. You’re growing up so fast.” Next week she will graduate from kindergarten, but my mind was filled with images of dead bodies of elementary school children.

I find myself praying Psalm 13, “How long, Oh Lord?”

When I was in school we had fire drills and tornado drills. In the early 50s, schools across the U.S. were training students to “duck and cover” in case of an atomic attack. Beginning as early as pre-school, today’s children have active shooter or intruder drills. Our children learn to hide quietly in classroom closets and barricade doors. Their teachers seek ways to keep anxiety at bay, but that’s no easy task. Research underlines what should otherwise be obvious, that active shooter drills are associated with increased depression, anxiety, and physiological health problems. When lawmakers cannot reach resolutions regarding gun-safety policies, we place the burden of school safety on our children. Is there no way beyond this? Is it really true, that in America we value our guns more than the lives of our children?

In our grief and anguish, we bear a pain that reveals the truth of the way the world is. Time and time again, we say, “never again,” and yet these shootings become more common and more expected. The number of active shooter incidents in schools continues to rise. According to the Center for Homeland Defense and Security, since 1970, when current records began, “there have been 2,052 school shooting incidents in America which have left 661 dead.” The shooting in Texas was one of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history. We risk becoming numb to the senseless loss of life.

Fantasizing about what the Church can be in a moment like this feels disingenuous. Is paralysis all we have left?

Today, even with the psalms on my lips, I find it hard to pray in the name of Jesus without thinking about the bodies of our nation’s crucified children.

I love the Church. I am proud of the work we continue to do.

Can we weave our gifts together in ways that bring healing in the midst of such tragedy? 

Whatever our response is, we cannot become numb to it.