Like the rest of the nation, my husband and I have been pondering what could have been done to prevent a tragedy like the one in Sandy Hook, or the theater in Aurora, or Columbine, or, or, or… In ministry we get to see God’s hand at work in even the most difficult situations. But we have no illusions about human nature and the realities of our broken world. In our own lives and in the lives of those around us, we see the fruits of woundedness, trauma, and selfishness that affect innocents.
I’ve read the “I am Adam Lanza’s mother” article that has been circulating. My husband and I have looked at the profiles of those who are guilty of these mass shootings. We see those in our own lives in whom many of those risk factors are present: rejection, isolation, socially awkward, angry, battling depression and mental illness.
I will not pretend to be an expert. I oppose those who glibly prescribe prayer in school as the remedy to this complex social breakdown. I believe that we need to take a serious look at gun laws in this country and make it more difficult for the mentally unstable to obtain weapons. But gun laws will never penetrate the heart of the individual where the seeds of violence find fertile soil. And while it is clear that an in-tact family is a large factor in bolstering mental, physical, and emotional health, familial brokenness has been with us since the dawn of time and we must look at action steps in light of that reality.
The church, as broken as it can sometime be, is one of God’s prescriptions for mental health. The very word for church- “ekklesia” or congregation, defies isolation and rejection. True members of the ekklesia will reach out to the “socially awkward.” Fellowship will not depend on whether or not someone is like you, but whether or not you are being like God and embracing the most marginalized within your community.
Very often, it is through others that God speaks encouragement, comfort and direction to us. Without the loving and corrective perspective of a proven friend, an individual can justify any thought process or course of action. What if Adam Lansa had been a part of a community where at least one or two people really knew what was in his mind and heart? What if his feelings of rejection were proven wrong by a pastor who was willing to drop everything if he needed to talk or go with him to a mental health evaluation? What if, despite trepidation and personal risk, a friend had shown up at his house and quietly but firmly asked for him to hand over his guns?
Church, this is your charge: be filled with the Spirit of Christ so that you can be Christ to a broken world.