What happened in Orlando Sunday night was evil. Some things simply ought not to be. Hate and murder are among them. As Christians, we must stubbornly insist, with eyes of faith, to look beyond what is and place our hope in what is to come. I will not add speculation or drama or explanation to what is already a saturated blogosphere. Instead, I want to comment on what seems missing amidst the escalating voices vying for your mouse clicks. The ability to mourn.
I’m not yet 40 years old and I find myself saying, “I remember when…” I remember when we knew how to mourn. I remember when standing stunned and immovable in the wake of tragedy was not only possible, it was expected.
On September 11, 2001 I was teaching elementary band in downtown Cincinnati. Early that morning we knew something was amiss but because our students were young, class was not interrupted. A high school class was scheduled for around 10am. At that point administrators brought us a television and explained what was happening. We spent the next 45 minutes just watching. At lunchtime I took a walk. After a few short city blocks I ducked into a hole in the wall pub to grab a sandwich. The TVs were ablaze there too. Little was being said. What conversation could be heard was mostly fact checking and expressions of disbelief. A few speculated as to how different the world would now be.
There was no Facebook. No Twitter. Cable news was in its infancy. There was no cell phone or tablet tempting us to immediately articulate our feelings, opinions, and judgments to a world that never asked to hear them. We didn’t have the digital world so we settled for the real world. We could not wallow within ourselves, we could only look outward. Outward toward family and friends; community and country. And we looked heavenward in search of a transcendent Sanity in the face of imminent chaos. Keenly aware of our powerlessness in the face of manifest evil, we just took it in. We stood in awe and we mourned.
Does anybody do this anymore? So much has changed so quickly. Seemingly indignant over our creaturely status, we finally have the tools we need to provide meaning for ourselves. We now live in custom-made digital environments where everyone is god and God is no one. In these fiefdoms we are finally free to dispense self-righteous judgement. “It’s their fault!” We are wise in our own eyes with understanding. “This is the problem. And this is the solution!”
We do not grieve with kinfolk. We saddle up with a posse of people who, like us, “get it”. And we do battle. We have downed the ale of naiveté and have become drunk on the idea that we can control our destiny. That we can create our reality. That we can solve our problems.
Christians should model to the world how to mourn. Our message will be hard for many to hear. We come with terrible news: You do not know whose fault it is. You do not know the cause. You do not have the solution. You cannot explain why. When you come to the end of the line, you get off at a station called Grief. And that’s where God is waiting to pick you up.
There is One who knows whose fault it is. Once upon a time, He met him in hell for a fistfight.
There is One who understands every causal intricacy of each tragic event.
There is One who not only knows the solution, but who is the solution.
There is even One who knows why.
Today is a good day to pray like David. Here’s a good place to start: Psalm 31