Pride & Prejudice & Hate Crimes

One more senseless gun tragedy in an endless deluge of senseless gun tragedies. Fifty lives were taken in the early hours this morning, snuffed out in a matter of minutes in a quick & cruel hailstorm unleashed by an AR-15. And why? Hatred – a blind sickness, a cancer that corrupts & devours all it touches. The man responsible for this crime was consumed with his hatred for those different from him, those who strayed from his twisted & deluded ideology. The victims he took were no longer human in his eyes just targets for the picking. 

I will never understand how one person can take the life of another for sport, for amusement, for any reason. I will never understand how a person can be so hollow & void of empathy that they no longer recognize themselves in the faces of others. That level of cruelty & violence is beyond me, thank God, but that won’t keep me safe from it. 

I’m sure none of the victims that died this morning could understand it either. But now, through the vicious actions of a total stranger, it will be their loved ones who are left to ask the question of, “Why?”, and never receive a satisfactory answer. There isn’t a good reason to be had. There is no plausible, rational reason to kill dozens of people. There is no excuse for the slaughter of human beings. 

Of course, there will be those (as there always are) who say there was no way to have predicted this or to have prevented it. Except, we’ve known this was going to happen since the last mass shooting took place. We’ve all known that the last time was never going to actually be the last time. It was just a matter of when and not if the next crazed gunman would appear; to decide who would live & who would die. 

This country has always had an unhealthy obsession with guns & violence. We wield them as tools with brazen hubris and have done so since our puritanical ancestors first stepped ashore here. Our nation’s entire history is one built on notions of domination, entitlement, and death. From our unceasing expansion westward to tame the land & break the natives; to our subjugation & abuse of African Americans; the rapes, lynchings, & cross burnings; the beatings, shaming, & murders of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. We see this violence re-enacted again & again, like a deranged stage play – the next verse is the same as the first. And despite all the bloodshed, the tears, and the crying out, we will probably do what we’ve always done – nothing. 

We put our tragedies on repeat within the 24 hour news cycle, shed some tears, offer prayers, and move on. With our eyes averted from the issue we try to pretend it isn’t there & just hope that next time it isn’t us or some we know.

While prayers alone will accomplish nothing, I did pray this morning in church. I prayed for those who died. I prayed that somehow our politicians & our citizens would finally do something about gun control. Thoughts & prayers are nice, but when that’s your only response in the face of every new tragedy they start to feel like meaningless platitudes. However, we must refrain from merely scapegoating the mentally ill. People who are mentally ill are more likely to be victims of violence then perpetrators. The real issue is gun violence & gun control and it always has been. 

The sad & brutal truth of the matter is that the advocates for more relaxed gun laws & fewer restrictions have demonstrated that they value guns over human lives. They value the money & political support of the NRA over human lives. 

I would be perfectly content if every single gun were rounded up & melted down & turned in to something life-building instead of life-destroying. Ploughshares, housing for the homeless, bridges, charcoal grills, ANYTHING but the preferred implement of mass death dealing by the enraged & petty. 

I hope & I pray that more people will recognize how absurdly vapid the fixation on guns is. How terribly unimportant they are when compared to the life of a loved one. But hoping & praying won’t accomplish anything. If anything is to ever change we have to get uncomfortable, get assertive & fight for that change ourselves. Complacency kills, quite literally. Our continued complacency as a nation in the face of staggering violence will only end with our slow suicide. 

I am so, so tired of hearing about the murder of innocents, the numbers of fatalities read off as if it were as banal as the traffic report. My heart hurts and my soul is weary from all the anguish & senseless death. Fifty people were killed this morning with over fifty more in the hospital. How much higher does the body count have to get before we do something? 
+ Katie +

Advertisements

Waiting

totoro-rain-waiting

Liturgically speaking, we are stepping in to the beginning of a time of waiting called Advent. We symbolically wait for Christ’s birth which has a predetermined beginning and end. We have full knowledge of when our season of expectation starts, and we have no concern about when it will finish. This is not a season fraught by an uneasy anxiety gnawing away at our bellies due to unknowns and uncertainties. We have every assurance in the world that what we are waiting for will arrive as scheduled. It’s not unlike the soothing balm of being able to track a UPS package en route. There are other things, however, which do not carry such simple, easy blessings.

I sit on this grey & rainy afternoon inside of a laundromat painted Ronald McDonald yellow. I am waiting for my laundry to dry. The machines make it easy to figure out how much time lies between myself and the warm comforts of my pajamas and reheated leftovers. I am left with plenty of time to scroll through my social media feeds, to think, to mull over all the violence: violent actions, violent words, anger, vitriol, venom. I think how badly we are left wanting for justice, for safety, for love, as a result of all the carnage left in the wake of angry and scared white men. Because our suffering is, in fact, most often inflicted at the hands of white men armed with guns, self-righteousness, and voting power.  And we wait. We wait for the next inevitable mass shooting, the next scene of heartbreak and terror, and we wait for something to be done to make it all stop. We wait for someone, somewhere with the power to do something to finally reach their breaking point and say that this time it was the last straw.

We cannot foretell when our nation will cease the slow and agonizing process of committing the genocidal suicide of it’s own people, it’s own soul. A country with a population of 0-1 can no longer call itself a world power. It’s a wasteland. Ours will be a desert littered by the glitter of gunmetal, stained by hubris and wrath, lest something can be done about our lust for firearms and power.

As Americans, we are enamored with our guns and our idea of “freedom”. We love to wield this second-amendment freedom with reckless abandon by buying absurd numbers of guns, the biggest and most powerful guns we can possibly manage. They make us feel invincible, important, like we’re in complete control, rugged individualists mastering our own destinies. White America in particular rather enjoys utilizing guns as a tool to maintain the self-ordained position of privilege and power it has grown accustomed to. When BlackLivesMatter protesters are shot, when Planned Parenthood clinics are attacked, when black church members are shot in their own house of worship, when women are threatened with rape and murder for voicing an opinion, these are acts of terror meant to keep those voices and those bodies in line with the kinds of lifestyles and behaviors deemed appropriate and acceptable by white male conservatism. The black community isn’t supposed to raise too much of a fuss, women aren’t supposed to have control over their own bodies, and no minority group is supposed to hold more influence or have a louder voice than the white men in the room. It makes them uncomfortable, it offends their sense of superiority, and when these white men feel threatened they reach for the thing which can make them feel powerful again the fastest way they know how. They reach for their guns and they try to intimidate those who are intimidating them. This violence is a very telling symptom of their fear.

What to do? Despite my being a Christian I’m not going to say “pray”. Simply praying for things to be different isn’t going to magically make all the rage and fear evaporate and replace it with love and understanding. Changing the kind of mindset that acts in such a way is not an easy or fast process. This is not just a “mental health” issue. You can make it harder to get possession of military grade weaponry in the first place, the kinds of guns that can send out endless barrages of bullets in the time it takes to blink your eyes without the hassle of having to reload. We can make an effort to educate our population about the value of diversity; that someone being different than you does not automatically mean they are a threat to your very existence; that empathy is a more valuable trait than having a ruthless competitive nature; to value human life more than nations and symbols.

I am not naive enough to believe that we can ever get rid of all violence, hatred, and greed. These traits are inherently human and cannot be eradicated. But we can at least try to make things better. Can’t we? Surely we cannot be content with the way things are, with the way people act towards each other now. I know I’m not and I know I’m not alone. I’d rather keep dreaming, keep loving, keep creating, keep educating, and continue to try to make this world a little bit better just a little bit at a time and not just wait for it to happen.

americaloading

+ Katie +

 

Walking Humbly

walkhumbly-rounded

Let’s talk for a bit about humility today. It is a subject which has been on my mind as of late, a topic I’m learning firsthand lessons on right now. You see, on the evening of April 11th I was trying to exit my bed from the foot while holding a glass of iced tea in one hand & my cellphone in the other, lost my balance at the edge, and proceeded to fall heavily on to the hardwood floor. Neither the phone nor my glass broke, but my left shoulder fractured in 2 places at the top of my humerus. I had surgery on the 24th where I received a roughly 6 in. piece of metal & 6 screws in my arm. I have been in a sling since, and am healing well, with a projected date of June 4th for being able to go sling-free. Physical therapy will be required & I won’t be completely back to normal until roughly October. I haven’t done any blogging in some time as I am generally a fast typer & have been slowed down by my injury, having to type one-handed. It’s frustrating, but I am grateful that the injury wasn’t to my dominant right hand.

Now, what of this humility I speak of? First, lets have a definition of what that word means:

Humility:
noun
1. the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc.

Humble:
adjective, humbler, humblest.
1. not proud or arrogant; modest
2. having a feeling of insignificance, inferiority, subservience, etc.:
In the presence of so many world-famous writers I felt very humble.
4. courteously respectful
verb (used with object), humbled, humbling.
7. to destroy the independence, power, or will of.
8.to make meek

I am going to be honest – I don’t like to ask for help very often. If I think I can do something myself by God I’m going to try and do it. I love DIY projects, I love having independence, I love the feeling I get from knowing I accomplished something on my own. Even as a kid whenever I would get a new toy that came with the notation of “Some Adult Assembly Required” I dismissed the instructions and proceeded to assemble it all on my own, just to prove to myself and others that I could. I hate admitting at work if I’m overwhelmed or stressed, or if I’ve taken on too much in my extracurriculars (like at church) because I don’t want to be viewed as anything less than competent and capable. Having a broken bone snatches all that independence from you in a heartbeat.

I cannot drive with one arm immobilized in a bulky sling. Gone are the days of driving myself to work, the library, the store, church, or to visit family – I’m completely reliant on my husband, friends, and family to go anywhere. I can’t lift my arm above my head or bend it behind my back & therefore require my husband’s help (99% of the time depending on the stretch of the material) to get dressed & undressed. I haven’t been able to put my hair up or my contacts in. I must move more slowly and more consciously to avoid discomfort and pain, which means getting ready to go anywhere takes longer than it used to. I’ve been having to sleep on my back. There are so many little things that I used to not think about doing that now requires assistance or forethought before getting them done.

While this experience has been and will undoubtedly continue to be filled with moments of frustration, I’ve also experienced a lot of gratitude and humility on this journey of healing. When I’ve had to ask for help when I otherwise wouldn’t, I’ve been met with instance after instance of individuals who are more than willing to assist, who are in fact happy to help me. I’ve received meals, rides, gifts, flowers, prayers, hugs, phone calls, texts, and extra consideration every single day since my accident. I have learned to appreciate my husband and my loved ones more than I ever did before. I have learned that it is okay to ask for help, to say “no”, to say “yes”, and that it isn’t a sign of weakness to accept your limitations. Opening yourself up to receiving kindness & assistance from others doesn’t make you less capable, it makes you more gracious. Being made aware of your physical limitations has a unique way of grounding you (quite literally) and waking you up to the boundaries within your mortal existence. It is, in fact, a humbling experience to realize your own fragility.

I am but one small human being on a very large planet. I can make an impact on the world and in the lives of others, as small as I am, this is true. As I gaze outside my window, however, at the chipmunk darting around the back porch, the birds landing and flitting away, at the fallen rain and the sun that shines, I can’t help but think of how all of us are reliant on others: other people, our environment, our infrastructure, etc. in order to succeed. We really do nothing on our own. We are all connected to one another in some way and can help or hinder the other by what we choose to do or not do. We are a community. My shoulder injury has brought that point home for me on a very micro, personal level.

I have been overwhelmed with the love that I have experienced throughout this ordeal. To know that I have so many people who sincerely care about my well-being and who want to help me in any way they can, that is a gift unto itself. I intend to continue to cultivate my gratitude and my humble heart to carry with me in the future, to remind myself that physical struggles don’t define your humanity, to try to be as patient with others as they’ve had to be patient with me, and to pass on a piece of the tremendous love I’ve received on to others in whatever way I can.

In closing, I present to you a rather poetic and appropriate piece of scripture on the topic of humility, an excerpt that eloquently drives home the same perspective I get when looking at the stars and contemplating just how little we all are when compared to the entirety of the universe, words that inspired me to finally update my blog today.

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? 13 Who has directed the spirit of the Lordor as his counselor has instructed him? 14 Whom did he consult for his enlightenment, and who taught him the path of justice? Who taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding? 15 Even the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as dust on the scales; see, he takes up the isles like fine dust. 16 Lebanon would not provide fuel enough, nor are its animals enough for a burnt offering. 17 All the nations are as nothing before him; they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.

21 Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; 23 who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. 24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. 25 To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing. 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. 30 Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted, 31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:12 – 17, 21-31.

+ Katie +

Regnum Dei

KingdomGod1

“And being asked by the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God cometh, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo, here! or, There! for lo, the kingdom of God is within you.”

+ The Gospel of Luke, 17:20-21 (ERV) +

Today is the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, my own patron saint, and the beginning of my absolute favorite month of the year. Down here in the South the days have not yet gotten into the 70s on a daily basis, but we’re well on our way to sweater weather and Halloween is just a few short weeks away. As I look forward to crisper temperatures, changing leaves, and scary movies, I’m also reminded of the shorter days and longer nights ahead. Seasons of increased darkness in many cultures and religions have long been associated with increased spiritual reflection. As our evenings begin to linger with us longer, and I think about this time of introspection, I am drawn to write on a topic I have been thinking about for awhile.

Several weeks ago now as I was listening to a podcast on Christianity, one of the hosts said something to the effect of, “the Kingdom of Heaven is like…” This spurred a thought process for me. I started repeating that phrase in my mind over and over, trying to find the words to complete the sentence, mulling over what that phrase even meant. I’ve contemplated writing a poem along that line of thinking, but that is for another day. For now, I’m considering a less literary question: What exactly is “The Kingdom of Heaven” or “The Kingdom of God”? Jesus himself never actually defined the term, though he used it often. Additionally, scholars have never reached a firm consensus on what the term is actually supposed to mean either. So what are we to make of the term? According to Paul, the kingdom is not a physical place here on Earth, nor does it pertain to physical actions that a person can take, but it is instead a state of being.

“The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

+ Romans 14:17, (NIV) +

Given Paul’s opinion and the inference of Christ’s statement made in Luke that he indeed does not refer to a physical place capable of being seen, I too would have to think that the phrase refers to one’s spiritual condition rather than a location here on Earth.

I can’t help but wonder though, what would our world look like if everyone found that little piece of heaven inside themselves? Through seeing the peace and love of God inside one another, how would that change the way we treat our neighbors? How would that change the way we treat our enemies? Could we somehow manifest the Kingdom of God here on Earth first through our own inner transformations? I do understand that may sound a little wide-eyed and naïve to many out there who say the world doesn’t work that way. However, the world is in the state it is right now because of us – we made it this way. Our short-sighted, self-serving actions have created the political, social, and environmental reality we now live in. We’ve been cultivating our lives with malice, greed, fear, and envy to where we can hardly see the beauty we live in for the bullets and smog. Many pay lip service to creating a better future for ourselves and for future generations, but there aren’t many out there truly making an effort turning that vision in to a reality. Creating a world that is more positive and affirming may not be easier or simpler than the way things work now, but it would certainly be better.

This is a challenge I issue to myself on a daily basis, to take a deep breath and and try my hardest to remember the humanity in the other, that they are me and I am them. I fail and I succeed at this challenge every day, but I keep trying because the alternative would be to make this world a little less bright with quick and easy cruelty. That is how I see God’s Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven. Not some far off place, not a literal reign on Earth by some celestial ruler, but a state of grace made manifest among us by our own mindful dedication to ourselves and one another in kindness and humility.

Where do you see The Kingdom of God in your life? How do you try to manifest that goodness and grace yourself?

+ K +