What Would Jesus Do about School Violence?

I don’t want to blog about Newtown because it feels too much like I am mining a tragedy for material.  But the fact is that aside from occasional stress-filled forays into pre-Christmas panic, Newtown is pretty much all I am thinking about.  And I don’t believe I am alone.
My posts are mostly written in the quiet of my own thoughts, long before I sit down at the computer.  They are composed out of the random rants, musings, and occasional deep thoughts that wander through my brain as I go about my daily business.  But right now there is no room in my mind for anything but sorrow and questions:  Why did this happen? How can we stop it from happening again?  Why are people saying and writing such stupid and pointless things about it?
Actually, I know the answer to the last question.  We are all searching for answers and wanting to assign blame.  I just don’t happen to agree with some people’s conclusions and many people will not agree with mine.
My topic for today springs from the ubiquitous prayer/God in schools meme, variations of which abound, and which I already gave my opinion on here.
Quite obviously, having God, prayer, and religion available in school is very important to me.  I attended 12 years of Catholic school myself, and among them my kids have racked up an impressive 44 years!  But guess what?  Catholic schools, steeped in religion though they may be, are not immune to school violence.  Here’s just one example.  The most deadly act of school violence this country has ever experienced happened well before prayer was removed from schools.
Putting prayer back in schools might not keep violence out, but neither did taking prayer out of schools keep God out.  God is everywhere; if you believe in Him you believe that already.  But He is also in His servants, and He acts in us and through us.
I have heard about, witnessed, and even been a part of plenty of non-Christian acts in Catholic schools.  I have also heard about plenty of Christian acts taking place in public schools.  Here’s one personal example:  William attends public school.  Last Friday he went on his first field trip.  I sent a $20 bill with him for the gift shop.  He was supposed to spend $10 and bring the change home.  Instead, he bought three plastic snakes, and then gave one to his best friend along with the $10 because his friend did not have any money.
If you are a Christian with a child in a public school, don’t make the excuse that our hands are tied by laws and that our God is in any way prevented from working anywhere in the world that He wants to and where we do His will.  Many school shooters are described as loners.  Boys who kept to themselves.  Who were weird.  Who had no friends.  Here’s an article by a young man who wrote movingly of what it is like to be such an outcast.  You’ve seen these boys.  There was usually one in every class even in the small schools I attended.  Someone the other kids ostracized.  Made fun of.
What if instead, we taught our kids to reach out?  To follow the Golden Rule in every situation?  No law prevents that.  No law prevents Christians from acting like Christians every day, wherever they find themselves, not only in church on Sunday.  God’s law, in fact, commands it.   This story may be apocryphal, but can any Christian deny that we are meant to do God’s work in this world?  What would Jesus do if He were a student in our schools today?  Can we get a clue from what He did when He was here among us?  Whom did He reach out to, whom did He befriend?  Samaritans, tax collectors, adulterers, lepers–the outcasts of His day.
It can be scary to reach out.  There’s a homeless man who often appears in our parish hall after Mass.  He sits alone, drinks a cup of coffee, mutters to himself.  All there he is clearly not.  Last week I approached him and asked him if he would like a blueberry muffin.  He didn’t answer so I asked again.  Finally, struggling hard to get out the words as if unaccustomed to actually having to speak, he said, “I don’t want any disturbance.”  So I went away.  Sometimes wounded kids do the same.  Unused to kindness they may fear it, be suspicious of it.  They have walled themselves off to prevent further hurt.  Your kid can still smile at the outcast.  Can refuse to join in teasing and make sure teachers know about it.  Can use his influence and example to stop his peers from engaging in it.
Whether this would stop some school shootings I cannot say.  But it’s the right thing, the kind thing, the Christian thing.
Christ Without Hands This is a statue of Jesus in a church in Soweto, South Africa. Since public meetings were banned during apartheid, many people met in churches such as this one. During an attack by the police, this statue fell and the hands were detached. Rather than fix the statue, it was left as it was since "we are Christ's hands in the world."

Christians Who AREN'T

I’m updating and reposting this today because four years later a U.S. Senator felt it was appropriate, whether joking or not, to “pray” this prayer for our President at the Faith and Freedom conference held on June 9, 2016.So I’m taking my son and his girlfriend to the mall this morning, and find myself behind a car with the bumper sticker above.  Looks like a nice Christian sentiment, right?  Especially considering it was accompanied by one of those Christian fish symbols some people put on their cars (there was one on my late lamented Durango!).
I’m sorry to say, though, that in my experience many people who wear their Christianity on their sleeves (or on the back of their cars, as it were) frequently don’t appear to live up to the ideals they claim to espouse.  This is certainly a case in point.  A quick Google (by my son, not me–I was driving!) let us know the heart of this so-called Christian:  May his days be few; may another take his office!
Yes, that’s right!  The “Christian” in the car ahead of me wants us to pray that our President will die!
Lest you jump in and suggest the words are figurative, or that it means his days as POTUS should be few, go Google yourself some Bible commentary like I did, all of which made it quite clear that it is literal death that this Scripture describes.
Asking God to kill people you don’t like is not Christian, folks.  You are the kind of “Christians” that give the rest of us a bad name.  You know, those of us who are trying (and failing, because we are human) to do all that stuff that Jesus actually said?  Stuff like “Love your enemies, do good to those who hurt you, bless those who persecute you, turn the other cheek, forgive your brother 70 times 7 times, let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”  Don’t ask me for the chapter and verse–I’m Catholic, you know–but He said those things and you know He did.  WWJD about those bumper stickers?  Rip them off your smug little cars and tell you to get that plank out of your eye so you don’t have a wreck, I’m guessing.
You call yourself a Christian?  Then pray, REALLY pray, for your President.  Pray that he exercises wise leadership.  Pray that his heart changes on certain issues–yes, like abortion.  Pray, if you don’t like him, for wise leaders to arise to replace him.  Pray for your country.  But don’t pray for anyone’s death and then dare to call yourself a Christian.
You call yourself a Christian- (1)
Since I’ve decided to revisit this post, I am linking up with #WorthRevisit this week!  Visit the hosts of this weekly linkup at Theology is a Verb and Reconciled to You.