My heart aches even as my mind is numb as I try to understand yet another mass shooting in our country. We only begin to feel "normal" again when something horrific like the killing of innocent lives in Orlando shakes us out of our blind comfort.
And then in less than 24 hours, the posts and comments turn to who or what is to blame - guns, mental health, Muslims or even "the gays" themselves? We all want to be able to definitely point our fingers at one root cause as if it is just a splinter that can be plucked out and all our pain removed.
Life is not that simple or clear cut. We remain blinded by the lure of blaming if we believe that there is a quick or easy answer. And ultimately, blame will not bring the victims back to those who mourn; it will not return life back to "normal" and it will never adequately answer the questions of "why?".
In trying to "un-numb" my own brain, here are a few of my own thoughts on that which has become the focus of our blame:
Muslims - While there are are extemists who claim that their violent actions are in the name of Allah, they are millions more who decry this violence and this abuse of a faith that centers around prayer and helping others, particularly during Ramadan. Every religion as well as other ideologies have their own extremists who will distort the central teachings for their own purposes. We cannot blame a whole group for the violence of the few.
Guns - First of all, to be honest in these reflections, I am not an advocate of guns and would support greater background checks and limited access to assault weapons. I am not advocating a change to our Constituation and the right to bear arms. While there are many responsible gun owners (including my own family), there are aslo too many loopholes that need to be changed. No, this won't necessarily keep the all "bad guys" from killing others, but it will thrawt those who act in moments of passion and rage.
Mental health - like other stereotyped groups, those with mental health issues are often only seen as "crazy". We want to carticuture them and put them all in the same category at the same time that we don't want to talk about its impact in our own midst. There is not enough care and support for those who suffer with mental illness. This needs to change. At the same time, just because someone does have this illness does not mean that they are going to go on a killing spree.
LGBTQ folks: another stereotyped group that has endured much throughout the years - not least of which has been directed from the Church. Like everyone else, they want to be with others who they love and want to be loved in return. Many cannot look past the "sex act" (which we don't tend to focus on with hetereosexuality) and see this central aspect that makes up all of our lives. Jesus hung out with those who were marginalized and shunned - he would've more likely been in Pulse than Disney world.
There is so much more than I could say about any of these foci of our blame. These brief reflections are just for the sake of getting us to move beyond blame and towards love, acceptance and ways that we can work together to prevent future shootings. Blame gets us nowhere except to greater fear and division.
If we are motivated by love and concern for one another, we then seek out ways to build up our community rather than tear one another down. Getting to know and respect those who are different from our own experiences can only enrich our lives and strengthen our country.
What will you do today that builds others up, that shows the unconditional love of God in whose image we are all created? How will you move beyond blame to building a stronger community and world?