For the first eighteen years of my life, I was Catholic. As I like to say, “the real kind, not the Christmas-and-Easter kind.” My family still is. Anyway, for fourteen of those eighteen years, I attended Catholic school. During the elementary and junior high-aged years, on Fridays during Lent, we as a school would go across the street to the church and practice a more child-oriented version of the Stations of the Cross. When we got to the station for the Crucifixion, there was a description of the horrible scene surrounding Christ on the cross, and this line I’ve never forgotten:
“It seems as if the whole world has gone crazy.”
My brother and I used to laugh about how dramatic, even frightning, that sentence sounded to our young ears and minds. We don’t laugh about it anymore. So many times since then, and especially in the past few years, I’ve sat down at my desk in the morning, pointed my browser to Facebook, read about the latest horrible tragedy, and remembered that sentence from so many years ago. This process played out again earlier this week with the live-on-TV murder of a news reporter and her cameraman. The first I saw of it was in a Facebook post from my cousin, who is an anchor for one of the stations in northeastern Pennsylvania. You can imagine his feelings, given the circumstances. Two people are gunned down on live TV (bad enough), but then the shooter, who was recording the scene from his perspective, puts the videos on social media because they show a lot more detail than what the TV cameraman was able to get before he became one of the victims. This is the way of the world these days?
Shootings like the ones we witnessed this week are bad enough. What is worse, though, is when the conspiracy theorists get going in the comments section of social media posts about the event. What I read Thursday morning alleging it was a setup because the victims had experience in video editing and could make it look like it was something it wasn’t, and that the fact the reporter’s father went straight for stronger gun control laws makes the nefarious-to-the-conspiracists purpose even clearer. SERIOUSLY?? You are going to say that this was an elaborate hoax to get the government to take away your precious assault rifles? How is it wrong to react in such a way when your daughter is murdered in cold blood on the morning news? I know, I know. I shouldn’t read the comments section on anything anymore. There is very little sanity to be had in such spaces. It does give you an idea, though, of other dimensions of craziness you hadn’t even thought of yourself. How does anyone in their right mind not despair when such insult is added to such injury?
Tuesday evening, those in charge of Elder Dallin H. Oaks’s Facebook page posted photographs of and comments he made at BYU’s summer graduation a couple weeks ago. I read the post shortly after learning about the events in Roanoke that had transpired a few hours before my getting to the office. It seemed like excellent timing for him to have said what he did:
“Though men’s hearts are failing them, you should take heart. There have always been challenging times. All generations have survived daunting challenges, and so will you. The answer to all of these challenges is the same as it has always been.
We have a Savior, and He has taught us what we should do. At the conclusion of His earthly ministry He declared:
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
As His witness I testify that His teachings are true and that the way He has marked out is the way to peace in this world and everlasting life in the world to come.”
*deep breath* Yes. The prescription remains the same as it’s always been. This is how, in my better moments, I would choose to respond – with faith and not with fear. A reaction like this, though, is often easier said than done. Human nature gives itself over to panic and despair with remarkable ease, and I could feel myself slipping in that direction until I read his remarks Wednesday morning. Horrific events and the absurd and offensive reactions some have to them must be withstood somehow if we are to find a way to get out of bed each morning. If Elder Oaks tells me I must take heart, then I am going to do my best to make sure that happens. This awfulness can be survived. The Primary answers still work. We know Who is going to win in the end. If nothing else can give us peace, those things can.
Sometimes I think that part of the challenge of living in our time is to simply see and acknowledge the good in life each day. The media tends to adore the bad, so it is easy to think that that is all there is out there. Yes, the mists of darkness are thickening. This spreading poison, however, is not without antidote. We can still step outside in the evening and watch the sunset (or, if we are able, the sunrise in the morning). We can still hug a friend or family member and tell them we love them. We can still replace the loud, out-of-control thoughts and images in our minds with real, concrete experiences of goodness…evidence of the blessings in our lives that will not change no matter how crazy and wicked the state of affairs becomes. The need to savor these moments is only going to get stronger as the direction of things gets more difficult, so it behooves us to start focusing on them now. We must build on the rock of the blessings in our lives so as to avoid the quicksand of our societal predicament.
Whether directly or indirectly, evil and disturbed men and women will continue to try to degrade or destroy our joy, our convictions, our sense of security. The commotion is building, yes, but if our hearts and minds are stayed on eternal realities, we will not be moved.