Back in the ‘80s, my husband and I were big fans of a TV show called Hill Street Blues, which chronicled the lives of those who worked at a fictitious police precinct in Manhattan. I remember one episode where the junior detective, after finally capturing those responsible for a particularly violent crime spree, was looking at the perpetrators in the back seat of the police cruiser. They were barely adolescents. He turned to his captain with the demeanor of a broken man and asked, “Where do you put your hate?” This has stuck with me over the years, and keeps returning to me as I watch the tapes of James Holmes appearance in court. Where do we put our hate, anger, blame, whatever we are feeling?
This young man, to me, is clearly a mess. While I can certainly hate what he did, I really can’t find it in my heart to hate him.
And so we hear people blaming uncontrolled guns, the mental health system, the Batman movies, people who go to midnight showings, and with their kids at that, the Church, the Godless culture, the President, the Tea Party, gay people, Muslims . . .
The litany goes on to the point where you feel you should say “pray for us” after each entry.
And once you simply accept that this was the act of a deranged person, how does pointing a finger of blame at anyone really solve anything?
We think the blame game will make sense of tragedy, because it’s our nature to try to protect ourselves. But by protecting our fragile psyches in this way, we are perpetuating a lie. Of course I want this to be a safer world, but I have to look the dark truth in the eye. Despite our conditioning from an early age to believe differently – WE CANNOT CONTROL THE WORLD! My balloons might blow away because I didn’t hold all the strings tightly enough, but they might blow away anyway. That goes for every other entity, personal or corporate, on this planet.
Jesus modeled for us a way of life that fully embraces the world and its people while also acknowledging and embracing the reality of death and darkness. He didn’t try to avoid that darkness, he moved steadily toward it during his entire life. When he saw it in others, he loved them all the more and reached out to them as human beings. He did what he could to lift them from their pain. For himself, he took on the totality of life without flinching. And he forgave.
And we who believe that Jesus and God are one and the same have to take a lesson from that. Jesus shows us that God knows the totality of the world’s darkness, and loves the world anyway. And we believe that by living as Jesus lived, we will, little by little, change the world.
Bad things don’t happen because someone wasn’t watching. The villain is sometimes just a poor kid who has descended into his own hell. Am I my neighbor’s keeper? You bet I am, but my best efforts won’t always keep my neighbor from killing me.
God doesn’t love us because we are good. God loves us because God is good.
And in this world – that really is Good News!