It is natural to respond to such news by either fighting or fleeing. As a parent of three teenagers, I wanted nothing more than to hide the news from my children and go about our Valentine’s Day/Ash Wednesday events. Others jumped into argument mode, immediately debating the issues that arise when there is a mass shooting. There is a reason we hold a strong fight or flight response: it helps us to survive even the thought of such incomprehensible atrocities.
There is another response we can work to muster, though. We can take action. On Ash Wednesday, we considered our own sin and mortality. “I think we need to ask ourselves today,” I started with my kids on our way home from both a Valentine’s Day activity and receiving ashes, “If, when we die, we want to be remembered for our sinfulness or for what we did to ease the suffering in the world caused by sinfulness. Will we be remembered for how we loved or for how we hurt?”
What actions can we — as a community of faith — do to love more than we hurt?
We can work to dismantle the hatred and bigotry that often lead to such violent acts. We can commit to nurturing those who feel overwhelmed by loneliness and isolation. We can work to effect the legislative changes necessary to reduce gun violence. We can create systems that assist those whose needs outweigh their resources. We can take steps to build strong, welcoming communities that embrace all people.
Responding to the mass shooting in Las Vegas in 2017, the Episcopal organization Bishops United Against Gun Violence wrote, “We must look into our own hearts and examine the ways in which we are culpable or complicit in the gun violence that surrounds us every day.”
We at St. Andrew’s express our prayers for and solidarity with all those affected by the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. We vow to take action to eliminate our own complicity in violence and to help heal a nation lost to grief.
You can read the entire statement from Bishops United Against Gun Violence here and their more recent statement regarding school shootings here.