In Australia, since a certified mentally ill young millionaire went on a killing spree in Tasmania in 1996, we have comparatively strict gun controls. This means for us now when the mentally ill, or the criminally disturbed, or the simply very angry in our community are provoked by their inner voices or their emotions, to act out, the worst they can usually do is brandish a very sharp knife, or a very hard fist. Several mental health support workers a year in Australia are hurt by their clients in acts of violence involving knives and fists, and a few over the past few years have been killed. But our gun controls mean there are fewer guns available for mental health clients to point at people. This is a very good thing.
If the U.S.A. intends to improve mental health services without also improving gun controls, all that’s likely to be produced is a spate of gun-related deaths against mental health workers. Improving mental health services is only half the picture. The other half is making sure the availability of those weapons capable of causing immediate and widespread catastrophic loss of life is severely limited.
Tim Perry: “‘Where Was God?’ and Other Wrong Questions”
I think many of us are afraid to talk to God about this tragedy and would rather talk about [God] (Where was God?) or talk about more mundane things instead (gun control; mental health). Talking to God about this horror is risky. To ask, “How long, O Lord?” is to walk the knife-edge of faith that separates believing Alyosha Karamazov from his unbelieving brother Ivan. It forces us to give full consideration to Ivan’s complaint against God – if the blessings of heaven require the suffering of just one child, then he wants none of God’s heaven. And to let that complaint out, to utter it even, is to risk – risk the shallowness of our own faith, risk really entering into the pain of others, risk really looking into the face of evil.
Alise Wright: “Immanuel”
We need to remember that violence against children doesn’t only happen in schools. God’s presence didn’t stop thousands of children from being molested in churches. God’s presence didn’t stop a child from being called an “evil little thing” for having a different opinion from a Christian leader. God’s presence didn’t stop a pastor from suggesting violence against children who don’t conform to gender norms.
If history has taught us anything, it’s that violence against children is pervasive, and is just as likely in places where children are taught Bible lessons as they are where children are taught the three R’s.
At the heart of my faith is belief in a God for whom murders like the one in Sandy Hook are not the end of the story, a God who stands in solidarity with the victims of violence, who became incarnate in a human being and suffered every sorrow of human life, and whose death revealed the rotten core of the cycle of violence that sustains our civilization.
The God I worship is one who will not let the murder of innocents be the last word, but who promises to bring justice to the victims and justification to the perpetrator. In the end, despite all of my doubts, I am a Christian because I believe that murdered children deserve a future; and I believe that we are entitled to hope for one on their behalf. Without hope for the victims, there is no hope at all.
Katie Grimes: “A Church That Does Body Counts”
If you want to know whom a given community or society considers to be human, look at whom they mourn. For example, in the United States until very recently, an African-American or Mexican-American person who was lynched by a white mob was not mourned in public. Such a death didn’t really “count” as the death of a human being; in fact, such deaths were often not even counted as deaths at all–it has only been through the painstaking work of historians that we have even begun to have a public record of how many persons of color were lynched in this country during the 19th and 20th centuries. It is almost as though there is an inverse relationship between mournability and disposability. This is certainly why as Army General Tommy Franks said, when it comes to Iraqi and Afghans, “we don’t do body counts.”
… It seems to me as though Christians should not only remember the “victims of history,” who are often those whom history forgets, but also that we should mourn them. The church should do body counts. When we do, we will be a church in which all bodies count.