It is a twisted world we live in when, during the unfolding of a horrible, tragic event, the first response many of us have is not horror at the events unfolding before us, but dread of the asinine rhetoric that is about to erupt.
I followed closely the unfolding events at Covenant School in Nashville when a transgender woman shot and killed six people—three adults and three nine-year-old children. I am a teacher in a Christian school. This tragedy hit close to home. Like most hearing the story, it sucked the air right out of me.
Sadly, and all too frequently, we no longer have time to process the tragedy, to grieve, to be angry at the evil in the world.
The narrative became political almost immediately. Within hours, it was no longer about the victims.
This is nothing new. I have come to expect it even though it continues to break my heart to see how fast the victims get thrown aside.
I braced myself for the typical responses: We don’t want your thoughts and prayers. Your prayers don’t work. Guns are the problem and they must be banned. If you don’t agree, you’re a member of an NRA gun cult who enjoys killing children.
I usually just try to avoid social media for a week or so until the next big thing pulls America’s short attention span to something else.
What I wasn’t expecting, however, was the contortions our leaders and media went through in twisting of the narrative to make the shooter the victim.
This came not from the media, but directly from the highest levels of government.
On Thursday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre actually stated during a press conference, “It is shameful, it is disturbing, and our hearts go out to the trans community as they are under attack right now.”
She actually said that.
And she said it with a straight face.
Now I got angry.
How can people harbor so much hatred toward a group of people strictly because of their beliefs, that they can’t put their ideologies aside in order to mourn with fellow humans? I don’t think anyone in the White House used the term “Christian” once in regard to the attacks.
I usually chuckle at irony of watching those who think Christians are hateful and judgmental display their own hate to a seething degree.
This time, I wasn’t enjoying the irony.
Does Jean-Pierre know it wasn’t a nine-year-old Christian child shooting trans people, right? I am fairly certain that this was one of dumbest, most inappropriate statements to come out of the White House. Even considering comments from the previous occupant.
In 2016, following the tragedy of the Orlando nightclub shooting, Evangelical theologian Albert Mohler tweeted, “The Bible honors weeping with those who weep. A lot of out LGBT neighbors & their families are weeping now. Christians must weep with them.” Then-Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren released a statement, “Heartbroken by what happened in Orlando. Join me today in praying for the families and victims of this tragedy.”
Yet the White House—the very symbol of a united states—couldn’t release anything close to that without bringing up politics or twisting the narrative?
How have we sunk so low?
…Take a deep breath…
I literally just noticed how much of my anger seeped into the previous paragraphs.
I started to edit out my own animosity in order to emulate a calmer persona. I realized I likely alienated half the country, convincing no one. Further, I have been likely shoved into the category of right-wing gun nut. Or perhaps transphobic.
I have become used to the endless ad hominem attacks in response to my beliefs. I don’t enjoy them, but I come to expect them.
Nevertheless, I chose to not edit out my rant above. This was deliberate. Why?
As I realized the direction I was going in this essay, I had a little bit of an epiphany.
I realized I am not above the frenzy. I am not a cooler head. I wanted to write a piece about a kingdom response to a tragedy, trying to stand above the idiocy, and I wound up joining it.
My fallen heart took over and the rant began.
I am just as susceptible. I realized how quickly my anger took over.
I struggled deeply with this bizarre response. It only added to the pain.
All week, I have been reacting to news with rage and sarcasm. I couldn’t count the number of times I angrily posted something on social media responding to some perceived idiotic statement only to take it down seconds later.
Even though I believed I was not wrong, the question gnawed at me that this wasn’t the appropriate kingdom response.
The kingdom of God is not about being right. As Jesus stood trial, he could have spoken out. If anyone was in the right, it was him. All he needed to do was say something—correct the frenzied misconceptions and bogus charges against him–drop the mic and walk away.
But he didn’t.
Because there was something greater he was accomplishing than merely being right.
The kingdom is not about guns, gun control, mental illness, untwisting bizarre narratives, transphobia, calls to action, and political mic-drops. None of that will work. At best, it is a tiny band-aid on a severed jugular vein.
So, what is the greater objective than being right?
The kingdom is about unreciprocated love. Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Easy enough. But he takes it a step further: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
Though my anger continues to flare up, those words would not stop ringing in my ears. My head—even my heart—knows they are true.
As I re-read Jesus’s commands, I could still feel the anger welling up inside of me: I just wish Christians on the other side of this debate would get off their high horses and do the same thing.
But that’s between them and God. I am not a part of that equation.
I should just focus on Jesus helping me navigate the darkness and chaos.
Next week is the Passion Week culminating in the hateful murder of the Savior of the world.
The love shown on the cross is unconditional and has nothing—nothing—to do with anyone’s definition of who is us and them. That love does not expect anything in return. There isn’t a political stance that could achieve that level of justice.
We must cling to that love, reflect it the best we can—especially in the face of suffering—and rely on God’s grace when we fail.
Your kingdom come, Lord. Your will be done.
My heart is broken over the events at Covenant School in Nashville this last week.
But so is his.
Over those twelve innocent lives lost. Over the trans killer. Over the hatred we all spread against each other while trying to score political points.
Jesus the resurrected Savior is the only answer.
Instead of stating my opinion, I have to understand how I can show the world the answer without engaging in the chaos.
As a member of the Kingdom of God, that needs to be my only objective.