Mourning 17 Lost Lives

in Alumni/ae News, News
February 15th, 2018

Mourning 17 Lost Lives: Mourning a Culture of Violence

Dear Beloved Community,

News of the horrific mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, is almost too much to bear, but we stare violence in the face once more, and 17 precious lives are lost, with others injured, and families and friends left distraught in loss and horror. The STH community prays for the students, teachers, and families of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I hope we can also turn our grief into vigorous protest of this country’s culture of violence and into determined efforts to create alternative cultures of compassion and non-violent action.

This moment calls forth lament and repentance. This is a season of mourning for the human family and a season of Lent for Christians. The leaders of the Parkland high school had prepared students for events such as this, but guidelines about what to do in such an event are never really preparation for the worst conceivable act. The horror of this moment calls us to pause and allow these deaths to permeate our souls, to throw us into the depths of lament.

The horror also calls us to be conscious of the widespread violence and destruction that marks the United States during these years of devastation upon devastation. The New York Times reports on FBI records that document more than 40 school shootings since 2000, including the recent Benton, KY, shootings and the 2012 mass shooting in Sandy Hook, NJ. The Times also reports that three of the deadliest shootings in modern US history have taken place in the last 5 months.

Denial is not an adequate response today; neither is a brief pause to say “Oh, how terrible.”  We are called to lament with our whole bodies. We are called to repent and turn around. Lenten traditions include a heavy focus on repentance, often construed as repentance of individual “sins.” Today is a time to repent of our own and our society’s bent to violence and our internal failures to live with full-bodied compassion. Today is a time to repent our own and our society’s support for violence by refusing to address root causes, such as habits of “othering,” scapegoating, and retaliating, whether in local and international politics or in families and schools. It is also a time to address ways that we “enable” practices of violence in turning our faces away, in allowing (passively or actively) political maneuvers that violate others, and in refusing to remove supports for a gun culture.

Today is a moment of shock. May it shock you and me into deep searching of ourselves, our religious communities, and our local and global relationships. Let us turn our prayers to the people of Parkland, FL, and to the world. Our distinctive faith traditions (Lent for Christians and Yom Kippur for Jews) turn us toward repentance and toward active turning around for the sake of the world. Traditions of fasting, praying, doing good works, and meditation vary across Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and others, but our traditions offer deep wells from which we can draw for the sake of Life. May we allow them to nourish and guide us!

May none of us forget the 17 vital people who lost their lives to violence in Parkland. May each of us find the spiritual courage to join in repentance and turning around!

With deep sadness and hope,
Mary Elizabeth