How Do I Process this Evil?

Yesterday’s school shooting left me feeling like a stuck record – my mind unable to move forward or comprehend the screeching static. I process better when I write. I don’t know where this post will go, exactly. I do know that I’ll ramble, but I need to define this pain and evil somehow; to see its shape. You can’t throw a rock at a giant if you don’t know where he’s standing.

I believe in a good God. Despite the crushing weight of pain and injustice under which we all live, many people choose to do good. Mostly, these small acts seem futile, inconsequential – and yet, we do them. That we have the energy and hope to forge ahead at all is incredible, frankly. Our resilience is awesome. And also not enough. We are called to do more and be greater not through the strength of our own wills, but through that divine strength and power that breathed life into being. Some of us are better than others at letting go the steering wheel and inviting God’s direction. I often fall into the “others” category.

I cannot and would never presume to speak to the feelings of those who have been more directly affected by an act of violence than I have but while I feel lost and sad after this shooting, I don’t feel anger. Anger might be an appropriate response, but personally I am just… terribly confused. We seem to have flipped a frightening switch in the last 20 years. What happened? It feels very specific and yet, for all the finger pointing at different causes, I can’t help but think we’re missing something fundamental.

My mind inevitably turns toward the perpetrators of these acts. I believe deeply in personal responsibility, but I find it difficult to blame an individual whose mind or spirit is broken. I simply can’t know their level of capacity. It’s a problem. If they can’t, in fact, be held responsible, then who can? How do you fight something so abstract, so elusive and yet so pervasive?

We yearn for certainty, resolution, answers. They don’t seem forthcoming. And as unsatisfactory as it may seem, perhaps we are simply called to hold ourselves to higher standards of love in all areas of our lives. Maybe that giant is invisible, but every time we respond to evil with love, we deal him a blow. Wherever the world is headed, I pray that we might have the strength to be vulnerable and the courage to love fiercely.

2 Timothy 1:7

“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Luke 12:48

“But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”


God Bless America (where we can stand -or kneel – for what we believe in)

Last week during a high school football game in our school district, a student knelt during the national anthem. As a result, someone made incredibly hateful, bigoted comments about him on social media. This has been on my mind and heart since I heard about it and while I know there are plenty of voices already vying for air time on this topic, I feel compelled to show my support. It is terrifying to put yourself out there in a public way when your opinion is controversial. To the boy who knelt: I applaud your courage and am going to make myself uncomfortable in an effort to follow your example.

To the person who made the comments: Congratulations. You successfully validated this boy’s actions and drew attention to the very problem he tried to highlight.

I am in awe of the guts and sacrifice it must take to serve in the military. I respect and deeply appreciate the sacrifices military members and their families make. That said, the national anthem isn’t all about service members; it’s about showing our love for our country. I am desperately grateful to call the United States of America my home, but I don’t think all is right with this country.

Kneeling is hardly the equivalent of flipping the bird. In fact, I consider it a gesture similar to removing one’s hat and saying, “with all due respect.” And folks have every right to do that. The fact is that this country is not a hospitable place for many people. THOUSANDS of hate crimes are committed every year, and that’s just what is reported (https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2015-hate-crime-statistics-released).  People are verbally assaulted every day, too, perpetuating fear and anger and more crime. In a country where we recall items that cause injury to a handful of people and hear about them on the news for days, how can we continue to ignore something that hurts so many? There is absolutely a problem. And we can’t begin to address it until it is acknowledged. Kneeling is a way for people to acknowledge that they have had a different experience here. It’s not all victory and opportunity. We can debate all we want about whether they chose a proper way to bring attention to this problem, but what WOULD be the proper way? It is peaceful, visible and legal.

Those of us who feel strongly need to show our love and support. And if you feel that kneeling is unacceptably disrespectful – have a real conversation with someone who feels differently. You might not change each others minds, but respectful discussion on both sides of an issue is just one of the valuable perks of being an American. We should celebrate that freedom.

Again, to the boy I mentioned, I am so sorry you were on the receiving end of that nastiness. Please know that many people support you.

God bless.


Love from a Scriptural Standpoint

I believe that the way someone relates to God is personal and I would not presume to criticize it. What I’m after today is opinions about how our understanding of love has evolved. For example, I see a lot of raised arms, tears and loud proclamations of faith these days in church services. On the flip side we have a more solemn, ceremonial or just quieter expression of faith from stodgy and boring Presbyterians like myself. 🙂 In all seriousness, sometimes I think that people have given love meaning that it hasn’t always had. So, I went to scripture. There are an incredible number of verses on love, and some have different implications than others. (This brings me to a brief aside about seeking answers in scripture. I think it can be dangerous to take one verse or passage as irrefutable instruction about how one should live or behave. And “context” doesn’t always mean just the verses immediately before and after. When taken as a whole -the Bible might say something quite different on a subject than you thought it did when you just read one verse.)   Sorry – back to the topic at hand. Below are a few verses dealing with love.

  • Luke 6:35 seems to refer to “love” and “kindness” interchangeably: But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
  • And then we have the iconic 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
  • Romans 12:9: Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
  • 1 John 4: 18-19: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  We love because he first loved us.
  • 1 John 3: 16-18: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

And of course, there are MANY more verses which may say something different to you. My point is that none of these really say anything about the way we should express our love. And perhaps sometimes we make it gooier or more dramatic or more solemn than it needs to be. What I take from this is that we should be listening to ourselves, searching our hearts and assessing what is truly sincere and what is merely, well, show.

Hope everyone has a great weekend! Thanks for reading.