Slaughter of the Innocents

My dear sisters and brothers,

Like you, my heart is broken over the recent school shooting – the death of innocent children and the teachers who died trying to protect them.  My heart is broken over the plight of the young boy, troubled to begin with, shattered by the death of his adoptive parents, and then abandoned by an imperfect system that failed to get him the help he so desperately needed.  My heart is broken over a broken system that allows a fragile and broken child to purchase and then use a military assault rifle. My heart is broken over how these kinds of experiences are becoming the “new normal,” and how instead of bringing people together to change the cultural system in which these kinds of tragedies become normative, it creates separation and further division.  Everybody wants to point the finger of blame while pontificating from the perch of their favorite soapbox – gun control, parenting, mental illness, politics, cultural violence, etc. etc. etc.  It is easy to lose hope in the face of all this division and it is impossible to find common ground when everywhere around you people are either defending or blaming.  In this, it is easy to get lost in the details, forgetting to see the larger picture:

The rash of mass shootings is simply another symptom of a culture on the verge of its own collapse. 

That which has been built on fear, power and control, and in this case, patriarchal/hierarchical fear, power and control, is quickly imploding upon itself.  The closer we come to its ultimate death, the worse things will become.  Knowing this does not lessen the impact, but it does help us to gain a wider perspective as we continue to do the work of

  • Being hospice to a dying world.
  • Planting the seeds for the birth of something new.

Historically this has always been true.  Leading up to the collapse of what has been and which no longer serves is an increase in violence, death, devastation and separation.  Scripture provides two such examples, sadly also involving the slaughter of innocent children:

 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, “When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.” Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”

Exodus 1: 16, 22

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

Matthew 2: 16 – 18

slaughter of the innocents, mass shootings, school shootings,
Massacre of the Innocents by Peter Paul Rubens

In both of these accounts, something new (Moses and Jesus) was coming into the world.  The old regime was approaching the end of its usefulness.  What had once been benevolent and life-giving had turned to privilege, violence and hatred.  Where there had once been harmony, peace and abundance, there now was only separation, unrest and lack.  At the end of these reigns of terror came those who brought with them the promise of something new (Moses and Jesus), but those who had something to lose sought to put an end to that which might hasten their demise.  The way they sought to put an end to the new was through violence.

It seems in 5000 years, nothing much has changed.  And yet….as proved true for both Moses and Jesus – that which is made of fear has no power in the face of that which is made of love.  Moses was successful in leading his people out of the land of slavery and toward their eventual arrival in “the promised land.”  While Moses led  a small tribe of Hebrews into a new world, Jesus’ teachings provide the opportunity for all of humanity to choose a world defined by love instead of the fear that has become its norm.

Today as we grieve the most recent slaughter of the innocents, we are invited to look beyond our fears, our personal opinions, our favorite soapbox and remember that this – especially the tangled web of debates – is another symptom of a world in its death throes.  The patriarchal/hierarchical world based in fear, power and control is dying.  The world that benefits a gluttonous and greedy few and leaves the rest empty is falling away.  As it clings to what is left of its life it will struggle, fight, and scream to maintain what it has known.  The rash of violence we are experiencing, the divisive debates, the failure to embrace civility are all examples of its death rattle.

There can be no mistake, that world is dying…..and for many it cannot come soon enough.  And yet it is not dead yet.  As adults it is our job to be hospice to this dying world.  Witnessing to its death.  Comforting those affected by its death.  Praying for its release.  Sending it on its way.  As we are being hospice, our children are waiting in the wings, coming together as one in tolerance and love, to build the new world.  Let us welcome them for they are the hope we’ve been waiting for.

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