After a week of collective heartache, I have been looking for some good news. So, I was grateful when I learned today that former President Jimmy Carter’s cancer is no longer visible on any scans. I needed to hear something positive in the news after days of updates on last weeks shooting in San Bernardino, California. Aside from the constant question of just what was behind the attack, which is now labeled as Terrorist, I’ve been troubled on a very different level. Maybe if we weren’t in a presidential election cycle, politicians would be speaking with more care. I would hope they would speak with more wisdom. I don’t recall another time in my life when a group has been stigmatized the way the Muslim community is right now.
In the past year we have had a young white man go into a black church, in search of black people to kill. We have had a white man go into a Planned Parenthood Clinic and start shooting. Neither caused a collective bashing of all racist young white men nor of all fundamentalist Christians. Last week we had a Muslim couple who had been radicalized go to a Christmas Party that one of the shooters was to attend, and start killing. We immediately started the rhetoric about all Muslims being bad. At the same time we told ourselves these shootings have nothing to do with our easy access to guns. Fear causes us to lose our perspective. It causes us to forget our faith and our heritage as Christian people.
The problem with this kind of talk is that it stirs up hate . . . Hate that wasn’t present before. Just like the shooter in Charlestons’ Emanuel African Methodist Church was twisted as he listened to others blaming black people for society’s problems, our rhetoric about Muslims will cause another troubled mind to decide to take out his or her frustrations with the world, on the Muslim community. It has, in fact already happened. Back in February three Muslim college students were shot by a radicalized white male, except no one referred to him that way. We’ve used the term mental illness most often with our shooters.
It’s an easy way to avoid telling ourselves the truth. Last week it was a couple who were radicalized into ISIS supporters. Next week it will be another cause behind a shooting, or tomorrow, or the next day. The truth is that we make it far too easy for confused or troubled people to buy guns. We have way too many guns available for angry or distraught people. We make it easy for terrorists to get guns. We have guns enough to last for generations without making another one. We have turned our guns into gods and we have worshiped them instead of the living God.
For months I have been praying both for the world to come together to defeat ISIS and for sensible gun laws to get passed. I cannot resolve either of these issues by myself, but what I can do, is to pray and join my prayers with others who are also praying. The good news is that God is not done with the universe. God is not done with us. God still hovers over the waters of creation. God sent one to live among us, to show us the way to life. We call him Emmanuel, God with us. For this I give God thanks.