What happened last Sunday, 11/5, at First Baptist Church was a tragedy on so many levels. We grieve for the families and the community torn irreparably. We wonder about what's wrong in our world. We have concern for our own safety at church and elsewhere.
This is a good reminder that all gathering places need a variety of emergency preparedness and response plans. We are actively working to put those in place at Central. Wherever else you go, you might ask what they are doing to prepare for any number of events, such as a fire, tornado, gas explosion, sudden health emergency, or an outbreak of violence. All of these are things for which we can prepare in advance and be more ready to respond thoughtfully and well. Panic almost always leads to poor choices that increase danger. Preparation helps us avoid panic.
More specific to the current situation, here are some thoughts:
What happened was tragic. We must not live in fear. We are no more or less at risk than the day before it happened. Its just been put in our faces again. We cannot fully protect ourselves from such incidents. We can do more than we currently are to prepare. The answer is not armed guards or concealed handguns at church.
What happened in Sutherland Springs was the result of major failures on at least four fronts which have nothing to do with congregation's readiness for tragedy.
One thing we can do immediately is engage with organizations like Genesis Women's shelter and their men's auxiliary HeROs to address the root causes of domestic violence before it begins and support people at every stage of the process. Victims, Perpetrators, and their Communities all need more support than they are receiving. Had these things been in place, perhaps Devin Kelley might have found another way to deal with his mental and emotional problems.
We can and must advocate for more and better systems of accountability that would have prevented a known perpetrator of violence from having been able to carry out this attach. No matter if everyone in the sanctuary had been "open carry" ready, Kelley would have gotten off dozens of shots before people would be able to respond and bring the chaos to an end - in the very best of circumstances.
I'm not taking a position on open or concealed carry. I am certain that arming parishioners would not have prevented this tragedy, though it may possibly have saved a few lives (which would certainly have been a good thing). In a crowded room people who are not expert marksmen would be just as likely to hit other innocents in the chaos and panic. We need to pursue solutions that prevent such things from going this far.
As with the Lord's Prayer, we ask in such times that God's kingdom would come and God's will would be done. We then experience the prayer immediately coming back to us with God's question - "What will you do? How will you pursue my kingdom and my will on earth as in heaven? How will you be partners with Me in the solution?"
What happened was the result of a convergence of immense systemic failures in our society. All of which we can address. As a society, we must address issues of mental health and domestic violence with greater intention, attention, energy, and money. We are not powerless. We need not be victims. We need not live in fear.
"For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment." (2 Timothy 1:7(HCB translation)
As we pray for the victims and their community, let us continue as people of The Light, who shine in darkness, and who are not overcome.
(If you would like to have conversation about this post, or the topics raised in it, I welcome you to contact me at the church.)