There Are No "Shortcuts" Around This Pain

Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut. December 14, 2012.

I have nothing to say. I have been staring at a blank screen for over an hour. Staring. Really.

Lots of ideas have gone through my mind. The Amerisphere is full of ideas, because we have all been provoked in recent days. Why do these mass killings keep happening? People argue about gun laws. People argue about whether or not these shooters are "mentally ill." People talk about our violent society, our narcissistic culture, the effects of violent video games, the degradation of masculinity, social isolation, family breakdowns, and so on.

Some of these reflections have value. Some of them are rather silly. Many of them are, in part, ways of distracting ourselves. We want to reduce the fundamental questions of life to social and political problems that can be fixed somehow.

Let's figure out what causes this, and fix it!

But many of us are just shaken up and confused. We have children or grandchildren who go to school, or we know others who do. There are just no words for this.

We have prayers and sorrow and deep sympathy for the families, certainly.

We are also reminded of our own vulnerability, how we have invested ourselves so profoundly in relationships and circumstances that seem to hang by a thread. We are reminded of the presence of the faces we love so much, how dear they are to us, but also how fragile everything easily we might lose our loved ones, even our children.
"Why do people have to die? Why this darkness, this absence, this wrenching separation from someone I love?"
The big questions. We all experience them sooner or later. Even if we are convinced that we "know the answers," our guts will still be torn by their pain.

Christians need to remember this.

Of course, our faith reassures us that there is eternal life, that death has been conquered. There is comfort here; indeed, when life seems incomprehensible we are reminded that our trust in Jesus must be radical and total. We must trust, because it is through love that faith holds on in the most obscure places, the inexpressibly personal places where ideas can seem so cold.

We need to remember that "Christianity" is not an ideology. It is a Person, Jesus Christ, who embraces the whole of our lives and all our suffering.