Sunday, August 3, 2008

Yes, Monsters are Real

If you are not from Knoxville, let me quickly fill you in on what happened in our city last week. I was nursing my baby in the dark in the church nursery enjoying a few minutes of quiet with him before church started. The nursery worker came into the room looking like she'd just seen a ghost. "There's been a shooting at the Unitarian church," she told me. She didn't have a lot of details, because it had just happened and the media didn't quite know what was going on yet. Later I learned that a man entered the church during a children's musical, took a gun out of his guitar case, and opened fire on the crowd. He killed 2 people and injured several others. Children witnessed the entire event. How those babies are sleeping at night now, I have no idea. The news later reported that the man was acting out his rage over the fact that the church openly invited gay persons to worship there and supported other "liberal" policies. Scary stuff.

So, seven days later, where are we? Every Sunday I ask my kids the same question: "After the Children's Sermon, do you want to stay in big church (the worship service) or go to Children's church?" Until recently, Jackson chose to stay in big church, but now Ei is old enough to go to Children's Church with him, so that's what they've selected for the past few weeks. Today I cringed as I asked that question. As I suspected, they said they wanted to go to Children's Church. I considered going with them. What if that man were to have chosen our church? What if someone entered our church angry over some political stance the church has chosen to take (or not take) and opened fire near my babies? The idea of it makes me ill. Are they safe downstairs so far away from the service? Are they safe on the playground? During the service, I was walking my baby in the narthex (he cries if I stay in the sanctuary, so I try to listen to the service from the back). A couple tried to slip out early, but the doors were locked. One of the ushers came out of the sanctuary to help the couple and explained that we lock the doors after the service begins now. They nodded in understanding, and no one had to say what we all thought to ourselves: if you aren't safe at church, can you be safe anywhere?

I'm so angry over the whole thing I just can't stand it. I'm angry with that man--that monster--who took away our sense of security at church. I'm angry with our government for allowing any old Joe to have a gun. Yeah, I've heard the argument that guns don't kill people, people kill people. Well, I say, hogwash. People kill people WITH GUNS. I'm scared too. I want to round up my children and shelter them like a mother chicken does her chicks. And I'm confused about why God allowed such a tragedy to occur. Here's where things get complicated, I guess. We had a rather lengthy discussion in my theology class last semester about the age-old question of why God allows bad things to happen to good people. I left even more confused than before the class. The one idea I did latch on to was that God grieves with us when bad things happen. I choose to believe that God mourned last week too.

I've been thinking a lot about the horrible man who did this. I read a discussion board about whether he deserves the death penalty. I'm not even sure if that's a possibility. Does Tennessee even have a death penalty? I don't know, but that's not the point. I just got started thinking about what God would want us to do. I keep thinking about how God made that guy and celebrated his birth. I keep thinking about how he was a baby, just like any of us, innocent and helpless. And I wonder if something happened to his man to make him the monster that he is today. I wonder if someone hurt him or if he just grew up around meanness so that's all he ever knew. I wish I could say that my heart feels sad for him thinking about these possibilities, but I can't. I just feel angry. And sad. And scared.

My oldest son has been having nightmares for a few months now. I think it goes with his OCD personality (not to diagnose him prematurely, but, well, if you knew him...) He worries and gets worked up over little things. (Where in the world did he get that??) The other day I asked him what scares him so badly. He told me he's afraid of monsters. I told him there's no such thing as monsters. But I lied. There are monsters. And I'm afraid of them too.

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