Thursday, October 24, 2013

Violence is always an act of despair

An important Pastoral Letter has been posted by Bishop Dan of Nevada in light of the school shooting in Sparks, NV. (And the tragic killing of a High School math teacher in MA...)

You can find it here:

An excerpt:
Tragic school violence has happened again. Only this time it has happened here. We are naturally shocked and grieved. Such things should not happen. But they do. Last week in Austin, Texas a high school student shot himself to death at school. Two months ago, a high school student shot a classmate in Winston Salem, North Carolina. In January, there was a high school shooting in California and a middle school shooting in Atlanta. One advocacy group reports that there have been 16 school shootings in the United States so far this year. It seems they are happening more and more often. When a school shooting happens at our doorstep, we ask, “What does God think of this? What is God saying to us in this moment?”

Back when I was teaching religion to law students, I read something theologically profound in a law review article by a great legal scholar, Robert Cover. He said, “Violence is always an act of despair.” That statement has stuck in my mind for nearly 20 years. “Violence is always an act of despair.” All of the things we really want we get from loving relationships. We want respect, kindness, understanding. We want to be heard and held. Everything we truly desire is a fruit of communion. It happens in mutual, caring, appreciative relationships. It is only when we despair of ever having what we truly long for that we resort to violence to get something less, something that will never satisfy. So yes, “violence is always an act of despair.” Nothing could be more explicitly despairing than a murder-suicide.

Despair is giving up on ourselves, giving up on each other, and giving up on God. Violence is despair in action. I don’t know the details of what happened at Sparks Middle School. But I know this much: it was a single act of despair by a boy, who some say had been bullied. Whatever his pain was, it overflowed his capacity to hold it, so he poured it out on others. Such acts are committed in the context of a society of people who are giving up on themselves, each other, and God. It is a hard, hard thing for a teenager to live in hope while growing up in a hopeless society.

That is where the Church comes in. We are here to share good news with those who most need to hear it. That’s our first Mark of Mission. It is our responsibility to insure that every young person, like that tragic boy with the gun in Sparks, has heard the word of God...

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