June 9, 2021
I don’t even know where to start. I have no insights, no explanations, certainly no answers – just questions. Terrible, haunting questions. Why do some people so devalue and dehumanize other people that it is somehow deemed plausible to kill those people? How could any society, at any time, ever produce people who think their version of the way things ought to be is so superior that anyone with a differing view is expendable? How could an organization that was operated under the auspices of a Christian church have so devastatingly misunderstood the very basics of the teaching and values they supposedly represented? How are a family of Muslims out for a walk in any way a threat to anyone’s being? What am I supposed to do with all this?
A mass grave of 215 Indigenous children is found at a Canadian Residential School site. There are no words. It’s a horror too unimaginable to be true. But we know it’s true; and we know there are no doubt more such horrors awaiting discovery.
An individual in a truck in a random Ontario city purposely drives into a family, killing 4 and injuring another. There are no words. It’s a horror too unimaginable to be true. But we know it’s true; and we know there are no doubt more people capable of perpetrating such atrocities. Far more than we want to admit.
I am not in any way trying to equate these happenings. But I will say that they spring from the same root evil. The evil that views the ‘other’ as lesser, and views ‘self’ as superior. And when people with such unloving values have power they use it to devastating effect – whether that’s the power of a government, a school system, a church, or a big truck. None of us ran those schools, and none of us drove that truck, but all of us are part of a society that has at various times allowed such evil to happen, or turned away from it preferring not to take responsibility.
Where’s God in this? God is the one burning the import of this into your heart right now. God is the one stirring us to feel sad, and angry, and embarrassed. God is the one convicting us to not just stop at nice words and empty platitudes. God is the one urging us to look – to not turn away. God is the one weeping, wondering where we were.
We all want to do something about these repulsive injustices, and so we should. But how can we speak into such a massive challenge and problem? Perhaps a first step would be not to rush into action but to sit with it. The biblical word is lament. To lament is to grieve audibly, to mourn, to deplore, to regret deeply. Lament is uncomfortable. That’s exactly why we should do it. Yes, go to a rally or a vigil, carry a placard, tenderly place shoes at a memorial, write to the government, donate to a support fund – but do so with a spirit of lament. Don’t be in too big a hurry to let that lament go. It’s a form of prayer – and it binds spirits together and offers solidarity and support in deeper ways that we can imagine.
There is one small bit of hope that I’m sensing in these tragedies. We noticed. Twenty or forty years ago such news may have come and gone. Not today. In this season there is an awakening awareness that those who are ‘other’ than me are not ‘lesser’ than me, in any way. A society that not so long ago may have shrugged at such things has instead collectively been stirred. I hope it does not fade. I will hold that sliver of hope, as I lament.