Season’s Shootings, or: I am an Ass

On Friday, when the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred, I got the news via Facebook. (For those of us who have been ruined by the digital age, Facebook and Twitter are our main source of headlines.) I saw the usual postings that you see every time a story like this breaks. “OMG I can’t believe this happened,” “My prayers are with the families” — that sort of thing — many of them accompanied by links to news articles.

I didn’t click a single link.

What need had I of bland bad news? How could it even be considered “news” that a society so saturated with weapons and a love of violence had enacted its own feverish wet dreams upon itself yet again? Did I really need a news service to clue me in that guns — those objects that so famously Don’t Kill People — had just claimed a few dozen more lives?

No thanks. I sighed and scrolled down, hoping to find some pictures of adorable kittens.

And as my newsfeed turned to a blue-gray blur, my thoughts drifted back almost 15 years, to when the now-iconic Columbine shooting occurred. I still remember walking into the room and seeing the news report on TV. “Another school shooting,” my mother said.

“Another one?” I replied, rolling my 14-year-old eyes. By the time it had occurred, I had already seen dozens of its like. It wasn’t even the first school shooting that year. Not even the first that semester. If the universe was trying to blow my mind, it was failing.

The shooting occurred on a Tuesday, and the Wednesday that followed was business as usual. I trudged to school and sat through my classes, wishing that I was outside enjoying the mild April weather instead. My history teacher took a handful of minutes to address the class about the massacre.

“I know some of you were shaken and need to talk about what happened,” she said. “I’ll try to answer your questions the best that I can.”

What followed was the usual set of inquiries from the usual popular kids with bowl cuts and Spice Girls haircuts. Are we safe. Why did this happen. Why would God allow this to happen. (As a good Calvinist kid, I knew the answer to that last one was “Because he wanted to.”)

I tried to make my sighing as audible and my eye-rolling as visible as I could.

I’m Luke and my anti-drug is being a smug, superior, pompous ass.

But finally, I couldn’t take any more braying from the sheep. I raised my hand, trying to look as much like one of the Why-God-Why types as I could. She called on me.


I hoped she was ready to have her mind blown by my unique, aloof brand of ennui.

“Yeah, I have a question. How many times will this have to happen before people get tired of acting shocked? It’s not like school shootings are new.


My teacher stared. Stammered. I still remember the look in her eyes, the one that said My God, even my own classroom contains at least one sociopath. She did her best to craft a response.

“Well, it’s because it…hits home. It’s the realization that it could happen to any of us. If it can happen in a school, then it could happen in our school.”

I rolled my eyes again.

I now look back on the moment with a deep regret — a regret that I had, perhaps, trampled over something sacred. That I had scorned others simply for the unpardonable offense of having emotions. I take some solace in the fact that, in some sense, all eighth-graders are sociopaths. But in my mind I remain the chief of sinners.

And my response to Sandy Hook confirms to me how little I’ve changed. And I wonder why I feel the need to respond to every tragedy with a yawn.

Perhaps it’s just pride.


But maybe it’s fear, as well. Is it possible that I’m simply afraid to feel Pain?

It wasn’t until advent vespers last night that the latter possibility even occurred to me. The service had been hastily restructured — appropriately — to include a prayer for the shooting’s victims and a homily that addressed its questions. But it was not until we reached the Lord’s Prayer that my voice began to crack and my eyes welled up with the tears that I should have cried for lost human life throughout the previous decade.

Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from the Evil One.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever,

The Lord’s Prayer, for all the pomp and circumstance that fools have tried to add to it, is not a “spiritual” prayer. It’s a prayer about the here and the now, a prayer for the needs of the body and mind at least as much as the needs of the soul. It’s a prayer that the Light would beat back the Darkness, not Someday but In Our Time.

Because there is a Darkness, and it is real. And the real Darkness causes real Pain.

The Pain of having to live in a world where a School Shooting is even a thing.

The Pain of having to live in a world where we have need of words like Rape, Genocide, and Megadeath (which, believe it or not, was a word even before Dave Mustaine came along).

Shock is overrated. It’s a cheap substitute for the Pain that comes from experiencing true suffering, or even the Pain that comes from sharing in the suffering of another. And the mundanity of the Traditional, All-American School Shooting does nothing to numb the Pain that it causes so many, no matter how trite the headlines are, how idiotic the gun control debate is, or how obnoxious it is when people start trying to blame the Media, the Healthcare System, or the NRA. What’s “shocking” is that we live in a world where each of these beats is entirely predictable. And yet the Pain is still there.

Because the Darkness is real.

But there is a Light.

And the Light destroys Darkness, and the Light has destroyed Darkness, and the Light will destroy Darkness.

The Gates of Hell shall not prevail. He will deliver us from the Evil One. He has already taken on all the Pain.

I rose from my kneeling and my meditation, the scent of incense and cedar still lingering in the air, and His Prayer still quivering on my lips. The mundanity of life was returning, and choir practice was the next chore ahead of me. I meandered past the altar, past of the Bread, the vessel through which the Light comes until the End of the Age, and I wandered through the winding halls of Grace Lutheran, arriving to warm greetings from my beloved choir. I was handed these lyrics:

Rank on rank, the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way
As the Light of Light descendeth
From the realm of endless day
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

An ancient hymn, from the Fourth Century, no doubt composed out of Pain and Longing.

A Pain that is real.

And a Longing that will be fulfilled.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

4 thoughts on “Season’s Shootings, or: I am an Ass

  1. Oh Lord, haste the day
    When my faith shall be sight
    The clouds be rolled back, as a scroll
    The trump shall resound
    And my Lord shall descend
    It is well, it is well with my soul

  2. Pingback: Drawing dicks on the walls. « The Western Branch of American Reform Presbylutheranism

  3. Pingback: I am an Ass, part II: The Sign of the Cross | The Western Branch of American Reform Presbylutheranism

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