“Aurora victim released from hospital; says he forgives shooter”
That headline added another ingredient to the stew of my emotions since the dreadful shooting in the Colorado movie theater on July 20.
First into the pot, I have to admit, was cynicism. Although maybe that’s not an emotion; the dictionary defines it as “an attitude of scornful or jaded negativity; pessimism.” However you define it, I had it. Here we go again. The predictable barrage of cries for gun control, with the predictable denials of culpability from the gun lobby. All of which would quiet down – until the next time.
Then came anger. I heard words of outrage and compassion from the politicians, but no appeals for real debate about gun violence. Next: helplessness: what can I do besides rant and rave and preach to the choir? Followed by guilt: how can I sit back and do nothing?
And then Pierce O’Farrill forgave the shooter.
I have no doubt that he’s sincere, that his faith compels him to do this. I do, however, wonder at what seems like quickness to forgive. I’m reminded of another terrible tragedy, the shooting deaths of 10 girls in a one-room Amish school in 2006. That community was also quick to pronounce their forgiveness of the man who had murdered their children. But in this case, there was also recognition that forgiveness is not offered lightly, that it doesn’t stop the grieving and questioning and hard work of living into that gift of grace.
But I’m not judging Pierce O’Farrill. In fact, I agree with him that this shooter is a ‘lost soul,’ for whatever reason that may be. I, too, can feel compassion even for those who commit horrendous crimes. My faith compels me to see each and every human being as a precious child of God – no matter how many layers of sickness and sin have covered that over.
What I am having a hard time forgiving is our national sin. Our refusal to enter into an authentic exploration of the issue of gun violence. No rhetoric, real debate. Will it be difficult? Of course. It will need to be facilitated by those skilled in polarity management. Included in the agenda will have to be a serious look at the connections between lack of care for the mentally ill and incidents like these.
If we cannot bring ourselves to do this, I am afraid that I can’t forgive. Of course, I have to include myself in this indictment. I have to find ways to contribute to the change I want to see. Michael Moore, in his Huffington Post blog, said, “All we’re lacking here, my friends, is the courage and the resolve. I’m in if you are.”
OK, Michael, I’m in. I have to have hope. In the midst of the cynicism, anger, helplessness, and guilt – I am compelled to have hope. But forgiveness – not just yet.