For Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.
But I'm re-thinking that this year.
What I'm fasting from this Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
(Let me be clear: that does not mean giving up news or otherwise burying my head in the sand: it means staying informed while finding ways not to get pulled into a downward spiral of feelings of numbness and helplessness; it means giving up unproductive feelings like hopelessness and resignation and taking on visible behaviors like giving encouragement and taking action.)
It means making visible -- here, on my blog, and even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories" as being quaint -- they are tossed in at the end of the news as an inspiring story, or put in the style section. But stories of good things happening -- people coming together to do things, is not a touchy-feely, feel-good story, but something affecting real change.
But in the aftermath of yesterday's yet-another-school-shooting in Florida, how is "focusing on the good" even possible? How can one express any kind of gratitude today without sounding as if one is burying one's head or minimizing this atrocity?
Here's a try, from the world of automobile safety:
Take a look at this chart showing, based on statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, from 1945 to 2018.
What I am grateful for?
I'm grateful that for the last 70 years, lawmakers and automobile manufacturers have apparently known something that's lost on today's lawmakers and gun manufacturers, which is that "thoughts and prayers" alone don't do a damn thing -- but that common-sense legislation does, in fact, save lives.
I don't pretend to have specific answers on what to do about gun deaths in the United States.
But here, like in so many other areas of life, "if there's a will, there's a way."
As I shared with the vestry during our regularly-scheduled meeting this morning: sometimes it's helpful to remember the phrase, "don't get mad: get even."
I'm done just being sad -- and mad -- about photos like these
and I am done being angry about the underlying lack of political will in this country to address this country's gun violence problem.
While I recognize that it's true that people of good conscience can have different proposed solutions to the gun violence problem, it's time -- well past time -- to vote out every single elected official, from dog catcher on up, who does not demonstrate at least a willingness to go beyond the platitude of "thoughts and prayers" and actually do something about it.
It's time -- well past time -- to get beyond the Republican/Democrat divide, the rural/urban divide, the liberal/conservative divide, the gun-owner/non-gun-owner divide, etc., and address this as a public safety issue; a health issue, and a moral issue. We can't legislate morality, but as Martin Luther King Jr. said, "We must go on to say that while it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is pretty important, also."
If there was a will, there would be a way.
First, there needs to be a will.
"Unapologetic Theology: A Christian Voice in a Pluralistic Conversation" is the title of a book by my beloved theology professor and friend, the late William C. Placher. It is also now the title of this blog, a place where I hope to add a Christian voice -- God knows, not "the" Christian voice, but "a" Christian voice and not just any old voice, but a distinctly Christian voice -- to the pluralistic conversation going on about just about everything.