Friday, June 19, 2015

A Ghastly Ritual

- in my meditation garden -

Albert Einstein once said:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Yesterday when I heard of yet another mass shooting, this time in a South Carolina church, I thought to myself, “yet one more example of the national insanity that has inflicted  the very soul of this nation.”  We see the same pattern repeated over and over,  never really do anything about it, yet somehow expect things will change.

One commentator lamented that the phenomenon of mass shootings in this country has become a national “ghastly ritual” consistently following the same ghoulish pattern.

Another mass shooting.
Another round of shock, sadness and outrage.
Another pitched discussion about rights and responsibilities,
gun violence and background checks.
A conversation about mental illness.
And then nothing!

This observation really “hits the nail on the head” for me. It made me think of what the president said yesterday when he spoke to the nation about the Carolina killings. He was obviously discouraged, maybe even despondent. He had spoken like this so many times before – when innocent children were gunned down in their classroom in Sandy Hook, people out to catch a movie slaughtered by a crazed gunman in Colorado, and now those nine souls sitting in a church studying the Bible. 

The pattern had always been the same –innocent, unsuspecting people, a “deranged” person with a gun (often several guns, sometimes a whole arsenal of weapons), the comes brutal murders followed by national weeping, horror and outrage and calls to “never let this happen again,” Then, churches filled with mourners all holding candles and keeping vigil…

And then nothing…everyone goes back home, turns on the news every night and listens for reports of the next atrocity to hit.

Although yesterday’s horror in South Carolina was obviously motivated by race, it did indeed follow that same pattern of a ghastly ritual. After a gun-toting, obviously “deranged” young man killed those innocent souls, there was great outrage throughout the land, mourners flocked into church in the aftermath of the horror..

Yesterday people all over the country gathered in various houses of worship, praying for the victims, praying that God might do something about the chaos. People everywhere observed “moments of silence,” many churches tolled their bells nine times for each of the murdered victims, some parishioners were asked to recite Saint Francis of Assisi’s Prayer for Peace – and I think all of this was perfectly fine.

But now what happens? What happens when the bells are silent and the prayers have ended—if the pattern continues, the end result will again be the same: “nothing.”

I actually don’t think God is somehow going to miraculously intervene to change the bad pattern of our human selfishness.  If anything, God has empowered each of us to do something about it. Instead of observing a “moment of silence,” we should all be engaged in a national “howl of protest.”

Instead of only sitting and praying in a South Carolina church maybe the mourners yesterday might have done better to march themselves down to their State capitol demanding that the heinous confederate flag be removed.  Instead of just ringing church bells and asking parishioners to say the Prayer of Peace, maybe the leaders of the churches should be actively mobilizing their many followers to stop this gun madness now.  

Otherwise we can just continue to be silent, say our prayers and hope for the best as we  wait until the next “ghastly ritual” is performed,  maybe this time in our own church or in our own school or theater or at a summertime beach.

I think about something Martin Luther King Jr. once said:

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period
was not the strident clamor of the bad people,’
but the appalling silence of the good people.

Dr. King also said:

Somehow this madness must stop!


  1. The murders make me wonder how much hate a nation can harbor within itself. Unfortunately hate can only be stopped by the one who hates. No laws will stop this, we already have laws. They are ineffective.

    This was a terrorist act. A hate crime. 9 murders. I'd like to know if this kids parents taught him to hate and if they did can they be considered accessories before the fact.