Reflection on Fort Hood
As I drove around town last Friday, I flipped through the right wing section of the radio dial to see how folks were analyzing the shootings at Fort Hood. To a one, there was a general indictment of Islam, of Muslims, of Arabs. I didn't stick around long enough to hear whether or not the shootings in Orlando was an indictment of engineers. Any time rampant violence makes its way to the head of the newsroom, I am reminded of Jesus' response to those looking to find easy answers to the death of those whom Pilate killed while making their sacrifices in the Temple. Rather than offering a quick analysis - e.g. those who were killed were deserving because they were sinful, Pilate is just a rotten S.O.B., let's avenge their deaths, etc. - Jesus suggests that these moments are ones that call people of faith to repentance. Every time we hear of such bloodletting, or even witness it for ourselves, the Christian's first reaction should be to engage in self-reflection on how we stand in our relationships - with God, and with others.
I mentioned all this during announcements this morning at church, convinced that OPC is not a congregation that needs a reminder that the shootings and Fort Hood don't say so much about a religion or a national origin as they do about a common humanity that binds us all. But listening to right wing radio two days ago, there are a lot of folks out there who are deeply infected by the confidence that such moments are not ones of intensive self-reflection, but ones that prop up our already existing stereotypes.
It reminded me that when I was in Chicago, we got word that the Oklahoma Federal Building was hit by major bombing. Sunday came, and we still didn't know who the perpetrators were. The pastor spoke to the congregation, saying that we need to be careful not to presume guilt of one kind or another before we have the facts. He was lambasted by several members, convinced that this was clearly the work of Muslim extremists. We later, of course, learned that this was not the case.
When I first heard that Major Hasan, the suspected killer, was an American of Palestinian Muslim origin, I wasn't surprised. But I wouldn't have been surprised, either, if I heard that he was an American Christian, an Israeli Jew. In fact, no combination of ancestry or religion (or lack of) would have surprised me. The thing that convicts me most about being a Christian is that we are, all of us, sinners in the face of God's perfect grace. We all do things we shouldn't; and we all don't do things we should. I'm reminded of Sufjan Stevens' haunting song "John Wayne Gacy Jr." in which he sings of the chilling mass murders and then follows with the verse:
And in my best behavior, I am really just like him. Look beneath the floorboards for the secrets I have hid.
Maybe it's not the religious aspect that draws attention in this case; instead, it's the idea that "one of our own," an army man, would do this to his fellow soldiers. Can Christians really be surprised that betrayal is a human trait, either, as it stands at the center of our story?
Pray for the victims at Fort Hood, yes. And pray for the shooter, Maj. Hasan. Jesus would expect no less. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otx49Ko3fxw&hl=en&fs=1&]