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In Spite Of...

Dec 18, 2012 — Categories:

It is the darkest of days, the longest of nights as we approach the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. The murder-suicides pile up: a football player, a mall in Oregon, an elementary school in Connecticut. And then there are the daily deaths from gun violence in every community that don’t make the national news. The darkness seems overwhelming.

It is the darkest of days, the longest of nights as we approach the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. The murder-suicides pile up: a football player, a mall in Oregon, an elementary school in Connecticut. And then there are the daily deaths from gun violence in every community that don’t make the national news. The darkness seems overwhelming.

On hearing the news of the school shooting in Newtown, I thought of my mother who was a 3rd grade school teacher. As I think about the principal, the psychologist and the teachers at Sandy Hook School who sacrificed themselves to protect their students, I know that my mother would have been one of them if faced with the same circumstance. These women who gave their lives for their children are heroines.

The members of the Newtown community are all facing psychological and spiritual trauma in the aftermath of the massacre of their children. From the moment the news broke, the question of “why?” has resounded. Why did Adam Lanza do it? Why did God let this happen? Why is there suffering in the world?

This is the age old question that haunts the minds and hearts of humankind and that many have tried to answer. One of the deepest desires of humans is to make sense out of the senseless. But sometimes there is no sense to be made. We are simply left with the incomprehensible. I understand sin, brokenness, mental illness, evil, and hate. But I don’t understand how men with guns can target vulnerable people, and in this case the most vulnerable of all – first graders.

But in the face of this unspeakable horror, here is the miracle: when the call came for help, people responded. When the people of Newtown realized what was happening, they responded. In the aftermath, first responders moved in to carefully investigate and remove bodies, making identifications and doing autopsies. In the aftermath, hundreds of people simply gathered at the school, in churches and synagogues to share grief and try to make sense. Around the nation, teachers and parents reassured children and people gathered in vigils and in places of worship to just be together.

Imagine if you can if none of these things had happened, if no one responded, if no one noticed. On that day, we will know that evil has won.

But that is not this day. And this is the message of Hanukkah and of Advent in these dark days of December. For Jews, Hanukkah is the memory that for the Maccabees who fought for freedom, the flame continued to burn even though the oil had run out. For Christians, Advent is the preparation for the birth of Jesus, a baby born into a violent and broken world who carried a message of love and peace.

In spite of the darkness, in spite of the brokenness, in spite of the grief, as people of faith we have a job to do. Our job is to keep the light burning, mourn the dead, fight for the living, be the face of love and compassion -- do not let evil win the day.

In Peter Yarrow’s Hanukkah song, he says:

“What’s the commitment to those who have died

When we cry that they’ve not died in vain?

We have come this far always believing

That justice will somehow prevail.

This is the burden, this is the promise,

This is why we will not fail.

Don’t let the light go out;

Let it shine through our love and our tears.”

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/snl-silent-night-connecticut-shooting_n_2310590.html?ir=Comedy

www.faithtrustinstitute.org

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Thank you

Posted by Mary E. Hunt at Dec 18, 2012 08:50 PM
Thanks, Marie. You capture so well the mood of so many.
My mother was a teacher, and my sister too. I have every confidence that they would have been unstoppable in their efforts to protect children. So we take up that work-- beginning with sane gun legislation to rid our culture of dangerous weapons. We sing our own "O Antiphons" this season: O Wisdom, show us the ways to end violence.
Best wishes, MEH

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Posted by gail at Dec 18, 2012 08:50 PM
Beautifully said, Marie. I too thought of Peter's song. That really is our job - to help keep the light shining!

thanks

Posted by Marci Glass at Dec 19, 2012 07:35 PM
I appreciated this post. Thank you for saying it so well.

recent blog

Posted by Linda DeSantis at Dec 19, 2012 07:35 PM
Thank you, Marie, for helping us stay focused on the miracle.

responders

Posted by Carol Adams at Dec 20, 2012 06:15 PM
Thank you for reminding us that in the face of evil, we make choices, and the choice to respond should be cherished and celebrated. None was a bystander on Friday.