Another school shooting. Sirens wail. First responders race.
Video shows the now-common recessional, with rifled law enforcement escorting a parade of students from school grounds. So oft repeated it’s now a kind of ritual liturgy.
Then a repeat of the predictable press conference, where scads of local elite get their turns in repeating the mantras.
Sheriff, police chief, mayor, FBI agent, school superintendent, hospital administrator, all chiming in: awful, tragedy, distress, heartbreak, failure, regret, unimaginable.
Cross out “unimaginable.”
Cable news channels muster their contacts list to orchestrate commentary from a parade of anyone with a title and a video link.
From the makeshift podium, the press conference moderator begins: “Here’s what we know. … Here’s what we don’t know. … We’re doing lots of things.” Lots of things. Lots. Of things. And still more things.
“We’re a strong community. We need to hold each other’s hand. Say our prayers. Say ‘never again.’” (The actual words of this afternoon’s moderator.) Again and again and again.
But never ever comes.
Such vivid, heart-felt perorations of remorse and mourning and lamentation and contrition.
But no repentance. No amends.
Only vacuous remorse. Sentimental mourning. Ethereal lamentation. Vaporous contrition.
The gun lobby won’t allow actual penitence. The senate majority leader won’t allow gun safety bills to be considered. Political “realism” triumphs.
One actual Fox News commentator is on record saying, after an earlier, even worse slaughter, “This is the price of freedom.”
Too high a price, this “freedom” – there’s that word, of hallowed memories and hard-fought struggle, the altar of our national cathedrals of patriotism, now officiating as pimp to politicians who know where the money comes from.
You gotta’ know who butters your bread, we confess, in light of Mammon’s sway.
If the Supreme Court says (“Citizens United v. FEC”) campaign finance freedom can be bought by the highest bidder, who are we to blush?
Lo, and “they did not know how to blush” (Jeremiah 6:15).
Not unlike the stones’ authorized cry, the schoolyard itself demands to know what Madeleine L’Engle’s asked in “The Other Side of the Sun”:
“Oh, who will bless, / Bless and redeem the blood-stained, tear-drenched ground / So once again the healing sun will blaze, / The small birds sing, the flowers be found, / And lion and lamb in loving joy may graze?”
Curator of prayerandpolitiks.org, an online journal at the intersection of spiritual formation and prophetic action, and author of, most recently, In the Land of the Willing: Litanies, Prayers, Poems, and Benedictions. He was the founding director of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America and founding co-pastor of Circle of Mercy Congregation in Asheville, North Carolina.