I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let’s go to the LORD’s house!” – Psalm 122:1 (CEB)

If you follow international news, you woke up this morning to shootings at two mosques in New Zealand. The current count is 49 dead (there were only 35 murders in New Zealand in all of 2017). A suspect is in custody.

A police officer outside one of the two mosques that were attacked in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday.CreditCreditMartin Hunter/SNPA, via Reuters

I imagine New Zealand is reeling more than we are in the U.S. Not just because it happened half a world away but because we have become used to it. It is our new normal. We do not expect any of our sacred places – churches, synagogues, mosques, schools – to be safe anymore.

Last fall, I received an email about an active shooter presentation by our school district’s recreation department. I suppose they offered it through the rec department because it allowed them greater visibility to the community. But there it was, right next to cooking classes and youth basketball.

Last year after Parkland, I asked Youngest what he thought about school safety. To be honest, I don’t wonder every morning whether he will come home. Generally, I believe our schools to be safe places (even though last winter, two people were arrested for having guns in their trunk at a basketball invitational at the high school). I was surprised when he said that he thinks about it every day.

Every day my sixteen-year-old thinks about whether there will be guns in his school that day.

Though he might not consciously realize it, every day he is facing his mortality (a never-ending Ash Wednesday). I asked him if he would feel safer if there were metal detectors. “Not really,” he said, “Although he might feel safer if one of the teachers had a gun.” He named the teacher. It didn’t make me feel safer. I didn’t ask why that teacher versus any of the others. Finally, he said, “I’d feel safer if the shootings would just stop.”

Nothing we can do to fortify his school is really going to make him feel safe. It’s about the fact that no place is actually safe. Not even the place where his parents send him every morning and tell him to have a good day. This our new and accepted reality.

It’s about the fact that no place is actually safe. This our new and accepted reality. #NewZealandMosqueShooting #chooselove Click To Tweet

The issue is not just our gun culture in the U.S. (or in any other country). As connected as the world is, we grow increasingly isolated. Change is rapid, and we fear it. Our lack of true connection and community makes us believe that we face the future alone. As we doubt our own value, we value the humanity of others even less.

Change is rapid, and we fear it. Our lack of true connection and community makes us believe that we face the future alone. As we doubt our own value, we value the humanity of others even less. #FMF #NewZealandMosqueShooting… Click To Tweet

In response, some cling to nationalism and a false notion of “the good old days.” Hate is something solid to hold onto rather than an openness to diversity.

For others, the challenge of navigating a changing landscape is made more difficult by mental illness. This is further complicated by social stigmas and insufficient access to doctors, therapy, and medication. Further complicated by our endless wars and failure to care for the post-traumatic stress that accompanies our service people when they return home.

In some cases, there is religious fanaticism. But this is a perverted expression of faith. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism – none of these demands the death of others. Religion becomes a front for our own insecurity, hatred, fear, or personal politics.

And so here we are again, with news of another mass killing in a place people thought was safe. When will we be willing to confront the reality that we are a broken and isolated culture? When will we be willing to put our money and effort where our “thoughts and prayers” are? When will our places become safe again?

Other posts on violence and school/church shootings (including prayers):

When There Aren’t Any Answers
Thoughts and Prayers
How Long? :: Psalm 6
Let Love Win
What if?
Except for Jesus
The Witness of the Church
Be Still


It’s Five Minute Friday, although today required longer than five minutes. But others probably kept to the time limit. You can read more here.

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3 Thoughts to “place”

  1. […] posting early this week in light of the shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand on […]

  2. It is so sad to read about the news in New Zealand, and it must be terrible for your son to live with that fear each day. This week has been the anniversary of a mass shooting at a school in Dunblane in Scotland so the topic has been on my mind. I was at school at the time, living about an hour away from Dunblane, and I remember that suddenly school didn’t feel like such a safe place to be. I am encouraged though that the tragedy led to changes in gun laws which meant there has never been another incident like it in Scotland since, so at least it feels like something positive came out of it.

    1. May it be so in other places as well.

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